As a freshman, Mateo Costello was a football player who happened to be in the third-period algebra class of Riverside-Brookfield High School wrestling coach Nick Curby.
Right before the season, Curby approached Costello about trying out.
“I never wrestled. I didn’t really think it was a real sport, besides WWE,” Costello recalled. “Stepping on the mat the first time was definitely something I had to get used to.”
Now a senior, Costello is part of the large and strong veteran lineup determined to surpass the history the Bulldogs made in 2020 when they qualified for the IHSA Class 2A team state quarterfinals for the first time.
The individual state tournament comes first and the Bulldogs advanced 14 wrestlers to the Hinsdale South Individual Sectional this weekend with top-three finishes at the Hinsdale South Individual Regional on Feb. 5.
Senior Brock Hoyd (31-4 record at 170 pounds) and Costello (31-5 at 126) — the two Bulldogs with IHSA individual state meet experience – won their classes as well as seniors Liam Cote (20-6 at 182) and Thurman Givens (13-10 at 195) and junior Quintavius Murrell (21-17 at 120).
Seniors Matt Decosola (20-14 at 106) and Daeshawn Jackson (17-9 at 285), junior Joe Midona (16-13 at 220), sophomore Jacob Noe (15-19 at 145) and freshman Edgar Mosquera (7-5 at 113) finished second. Seniors Mike Racanelli (18-19 at 138) and Ethan Ranft (16-7 at 160), junior Bill Martin (11-11 at 152) and sophomore Josh Gonzalez (19-15 at 132) were third.
Top-four individual sectional finishers advance to state. Hoyd qualified as a freshman at 120 but suffered a mid-season back injury in 2020 and came one sectional victory short of advancing again.
Especially with no 2021 IHSA state tournament, Hoyd decided not to play football this fall to improve his all-state chances.
“I definitely want to get on the podium at state this year, and then team-wise I think we have a great shot,” Hoyd said. “I did offseason [training] all summer, which usually football stopped me from doing. I decided to completely dedicate myself to wrestling.”
Hoyd and Costello epitomize the dedication and progress the program has made through this senior class.
Hoyd has wrestled since he was about 6 years old. Costello went from a wrestling education on the freshman team to a 2020 IHSA state qualifier at 113.
“Bringing that love of wrestling to the rest of the program has been a big part of their leadership, big contributions,” Curby said.
This season, Costello has returned from a separated left shoulder that sidelined him for two months. He returned to action Dec. 2 and the next day won the Fenton Invite.
Costello said part of the credit for his all-state potential has been Hoyd.
“He’s a big part of the team. I think everyone looks to him as the vet,” Costello said. “Sophomore year, I couldn’t have gone much further if it weren’t for him helping me out. I definitely think he’s one of the biggest parts of the team’s success and my success.”
By winning regionals on Feb. 5, the Bulldogs also advanced to the IHSA 2A Team Sectional at Brother Rice on Feb. 22.
The 2020 downstate team berth remains the seniors’ greatest memory. After just missing state individually, Hoyd used his recovery time and experience to help the Bulldogs defeat Brother Rice in the sectional to advance downstate.
“[Brother Rice] might have been my greatest feeling, when our whole team was in it, guys were screaming,” Hoyd said.
In the 2A team quarterfinals, the Bulldogs lost to eventual state runner-up Washington.
“I realized that my Class of 2022 were the ones that were supposed to make the biggest impact for the program,” Costello said. “By senior year, I was hoping our program was going to be a lot better than when we were freshmen.”