Riverside-Brookfield High School junior Eleanor Aphay achieved an important goal in her return to the girls wrestling state meet on Feb. 24 in Bloomington.

Aphay won her opening 120-pound match 6-1 over Kaneland sophomore Brooklyn Sheaffer, who won more than 30 matches.

“I’ve never actually wrestled her, but I’ve seen her wrestle. I knew she’d be a hard opponent,” Aphay said. “Winning that first match definitely helped me have motivation for the next two. I knew the next two would be very difficult.”

Aphay lost her next two state matches to two all-staters. Aphay was pinned in her second match in 51 seconds by third-place Bowen senior Monica Griffin (26-4) and lost her final match 13-4 to fourth-place Jacksonville sophomore Alexis Seymour (32-18).

Eleanor Aphay

“I definitely felt like I could have placed this year, but the weight class was super difficult. I think I could have done better, but I’m happy with my performance,” Aphay said.

The first girls wrestling state qualifier in RBHS history now will go after her next goal in 2024. Aphay will seek top-six, all-state honors after going 1-2 at state and making big strides from her first season of wrestling.

She improved her season record to 21-7 from 17-9, when she was pinned in both of her 2022 state matches, the second after leading 10-3.

Sophomore and first-year wrestler Danely Villagomez (25-9) had a similar experience in her state debut. Villagomez won her opener 10-6 and then lost to two all-staters.

RBHS wrestler Danely Villagomez against Miracle Thomas (Zion-Benton), during a 17-team tournament Jan. 31 in Riverside. | Ian McLeod

The eventual state champion, Rockford Boylan junior Netavia Wickson (19-5), pinned Villagomez in 40 seconds and Villagomez then was pinned by fourth-place Vandalia junior Lauren Dothager (15-8) in 2:56.

“[Villagomez] had really difficult opponents but she wrestled hard and did good for her first year,” Aphay said.

Villagomez was part of an influx of program newcomers that helped form the Bulldogs’ first girls team under coach Dave Curby that started with 12 wrestlers. None of them were seniors. 

“This season was great, and I can only imagine how next season will be even greater,” Aphay said.