By Marty Farmer
Taking over the Riverside-Brookfield High School varsity wrestling team last season, Nick Curby was afforded the luxury of a talented and experienced roster.
Seasoned grapplers such as Josh Contreras, Julian Blanco, Joey Swallow and Chris Colvin all but assured a smooth adjustment period for the first-year coach who guided RBHS to a 21-6 record.
This season, the Bulldogs are off to another promising start at 6-3, albeit with a completely different lineup.
"We definitely have a lot of new guys. We have three starters back," Curby said. "When you have a lot of seniors like we did last season, coaching is more about making little tweaks each week.
"With this new group, however, we are teaching a lot of technique and emphasizing conditioning. As a coach, it's been a lot of fun teaching them things and seeing them add those lessons into their repertoire."
RBHS competed in its first tournament over the weekend, finishing 11th out of 19 teams at the Pontiac Invite. Four wrestlers placed for the Bulldogs: senior Demar Pearce (12-3) and junior Riley Shaw (11-4) each finished fourth at 160-pounds and 195-pounds, respectively. Senior Sam Fletcher (11-6) earned fifth in the 145-pound class and junior Dominick Rowe (9-3) was seventh at 170.
"Demar is a returning starter who is continuing right where he left off last year. We're looking for big things from him," Curby said. "Sam is a team captain who strung together some good wins at Pontiac."
Shaw and Rowe played football in the fall,
"Riley Shaw has probably been the most pleasant surprise so far. He's not only winning matches, but he's gone above and beyond what we expected," Curby said. "Dom Rowe wrestled behind Joey Swallow last season. He's a football player and talented wrestler that's learning through experience."
Other wrestlers filling out the starting lineup include junior Jaimion Wise (113), senior Rumaldo DeLaCerda (126), junior Irvin Valdes (132), junior Cristian Vazquez (138), junior William Briolat (152), senior Vince Galvan (182) and sophomore Jake Stewart (220).
"The guys are working hard and wrestling well," Curby said. "A lot of the guys at the lower weights are learning on a daily basis about the sport. Vince Galvan has some experience which helps. He was a match away from placing at Pontiac."
While these wrestlers have varying degrees of varsity experience (mostly ranging from some to none), commonalities exist among them according to Curby.
"A lot of our wrestlers are pretty raw with a lot of athletic ability and a willingness to learn," he said. "With a younger team, there isn't pressure to win a lot of tournaments and dual meets. We just need to make sure each individual gets better each day. If we can do that, the team results will take care of themselves."
Fresh off an outstanding season as an offensive lineman on the RBHS football team, senior Josh Ricchio was pegged as the starter at 285. Unfortunately, he's out for the season with mononucleosis. RBHS will leave the heavyweight position vacant.