In his first season on the Riverside-Brookfield High School wrestling team last season, senior Joe Midona became an individual qualifier for the IHSA Class 2A individual state meet.
He hopes to return with another large group of teammates.
“I think they can go to state if they try hard enough,” Midona said. “I think we should have a decent amount of people going to state this year.”
Midona (21-18) and sophomore Edgar Mosquera (11-10) are returning individual state qualifiers at 220 and 113 pounds, respectively.
Four more are back from the Bulldogs’ lineup in their second straight trip to the IHSA Class 2A team state quarterfinals — seniors Quintavius Murrell (22-21) and Bill Martin (15-14) and juniors Jacob Noe (18-22) and Josh Gonzalez (20-18). Senior Devonte Givens and sophomore Cade Tomkins also started last season.
The Bulldogs’ season opens Nov. 23 with their annual dual meet at Lyons Township. It’s one of their biggest teams ever with 90 wrestlers between the boys and girls programs.
“It seems like every year we have a bunch of young guys in the varsity lineup, and they have a lot of potential,” RBHS coach Nick Curby said. “We know what we’ve got in our returning guys. We’ve had a conversation that they have to step it up, take the lead. The younger guys, they’re going to have their ups and downs. However they progress will be kind of how the team kind of goes.”
Last season, the Bulldogs sent a program-best six to the individual state finals and all 14 wrestlers to sectionals after top-three regional finishes.
At team state, RBHS lost 65-7 in the quarterfinals to eventual champion Joliet Catholic. At individual state, Midona and Mosquera lost both of their matches after both were fourth at sectionals to advance with top-four finishes.
Martin came one sectional victory from qualifying for state at 152. Noe (145), Murrell (120) and Gonzalez (132) also qualified for sectionals.
During this offseason, Midona attended University of Illinois and Beat the Streets Chicago camps. Mosquera also sees progress in defeating sparring teammates that used to beat him.
“I was really bad last year. I usually just kind of made up moves on my own and now this year I’m learning a lot faster,” Mosquera said. “It’s just a better year.”
Other varsity hopefuls include senior Danny Williams and Chase Murrell, Ethan Rivas, Jacob Godoy, Max Strong and Matt Elzy from a strong sophomore class.
“I don’t see much of a loss in people’s dedication, confidence in matches,” Midona said. “I think everybody’s got the energy, transferring over from last year.”
Girls team up to 14 wresters
The RBHS girls wrestling program also is on the upswing, increasing from three to 14 this season with no seniors and seven freshmen, many with no previous experience.
One motivating factor is junior Eleanor Aphay, the program’s first state qualifier in 2021.
Sophomore Jeylin Galvan-Coss (3-8) came one sectional victory from reaching state at 125. Sophomore Frankie Abasta missed the postseason because of an elbow injury.
Aphay (17-9) lost both of her state matches at 120, the second after leading 10-3.
“I know she’s got goals to expand on that and also get on the [all-state] podium. The rest of them are kind of following her lead,” Curby said. “It’s easier when you’ve had someone who’s done it as an example. A lot of the girls don’t know what they have in them yet.”