3rd time’s the charm for Riverside-Brookfield at Fenton

By Gary Larsen for the IWCOA

Riverside-Brookfield coach Nick Curby has quietly been building his wrestling program the old-fashioned way — slowly turning raw freshmen into quality varsity wrestlers.

The Bulldogs have a kids’ club feeder system that figures to bear fruit down the road. But for now, Curby has a battalion of juniors that were good as freshmen, better as sophomores, and are now carrying the program.

“We only have four seniors in the lineup and the rest are all juniors,” Curby said. “Ever since those juniors were a real good freshmen group, we’ve been gearing up for their (varsity) stretch. I thought we’d take a step back last year when they were all sophomores but they rose to the challenge.”

On Saturday, the Bulldogs met the challenge to stop being bridesmaids in Bensenville. That’s where Fenton’s Weiss Invitational takes place every year. 

Fenton’s invitational is named for Steve Weiss, who was Fenton’s head coach for 22 years, retiring after the 1989-90 season. Weiss is in the IWCOA hall of fame and his 1973 Fenton team won Illinois’ team state title. He was the IWCOA coach of the year in 1973 and the president of the IWCOA from 1981-82.

After finishing second twice at the Weiss in recent years, R-B’s third bite at the apple was finally sweet.

Riverside-Brookfield won the team title 236.5 – 206.5 over second-place South Elgin at this year’s 16-team Weiss Invite. DePaul College Prep (184) placed third, followed by host Fenton (111) and Saint Ignatius (110.5) to round out the top five.

Riverside-Brookfield had 12 wrestlers place in the top four of their respective weight classes, led by a pair of individual champions in Edgar Mosquera (113) and Matt Elzy (190).

R-B led the field with seven wrestlers reaching the title mat, followed by South Elgin and DePaul College Prep with five apiece.

Placing second for the Bulldogs were Mateo Arauz (120), Jacob Godoy (132), Ricky Blanco (138), Josh Gonzalez (144), and Ethan Rivas (157). Mateo Gonzalez (106), Nathan Stanard (126), Cade Tomkins (165) and Max Strong (175) all won their third-place matches, and Jacob Noe (150) placed fourth for a team that continues to rise.

“We have a lot of guys returning from last year and seven of us were sophomores last year and we all returned,” Elzy said. “We keep getting better and better.”

Elzy’s coach aims to keep pushing the right buttons.

“We knew we had moved down this road so I just keep raising the bar,” Curby said. “They’ve been working hard. And even though we have some experience, we also have some new guys in the lineup. And those guys know what’s expected.

“We’ve taken second here twice. They knew coming into this year that we had some big goals and this was a first step.”

Second-place South Elgin had four champions for coach Jim Gloudeman, in Julius Avendano (106), Demetrios Carrera (120), Tommy Roath (285) and the wrestler that walked away with the tournament’s outstanding wrestler award, Leo Rosas (150).

“This is my first one and it feels really good,” Rosas said. “Last year, I had a great season but I caught a concussion at sectionals and my season ended like that. This year I’m working hard, a hundred percent at practice, I’m ranked, and all of that makes me feel good. And it gives me motivation to keep pushing.”

Third-place DePaul also had three individual champs in Nabiel Rosario (126), Max Rosen (138) and Hunter Wahtola (215).

Also winning individual titles were Bremen’s Izaiah Gonzalez (132), Waubonsie Valley’s Ethan Wojtowich (144), Richards’ Dom Paul (157) and Mike Taheney (175), and Fenton’s Jovany Zuniga (165).

Fenton’s Steve Weiss Invitational championship match breakdowns:

106 – Julius Avendano, South Elgin

The first of the Storm’s four individual champions, Avendano won by fall over DePaul’s Dimitri Dobre on the title mat, one week after placing second at Conant’s 17-team Hruska Classic.

Avendano won by fall in his semifinal match against Riverside-Brookfield’s Mateo Gonzalez, while Dobre won his semifinal by fall over Niles West’s Hgsham Ghiasuddin.

Gonzalez pinned Ghiasuddin for third place, and Saint Ignatius’ Pat Moroney won by fall for fifth against Richards’ Declan McKirdie.

113 – Edgar Mosquera, Riverside-Brookfield

Mosquera opened his day with two wins by fall before winning a 5-2 decision on the title mat at 113 against DePaul’s Oliver Chapman.

Mosquera won by fall in his semifinal against Fenton’s Gabriel Hernandez, while Chapman won by fall over Fenton’s Anthony Bigham in their semifinal.

Mosquera led 3-2 after two periods before another takedown gave him the 5-2 win.

“Edgar was a state qualifier as a freshman, hit some bumps last year and didn’t qualify, and now he eats and breathes wrestling,” Bulldogs coach Nick Curby said. “And a lot of that is on his own, too. He’s always YouTubing stuff and bringing me stuff to me to ask about this or that. There were some holes in his technique last year that we highlighted and so far he has really made sure that those are the things he’s focused on.”

Bigham won by fall for third place against Hernandez, and Saint Viator’s Elliot Heckard won by fall for fifth against South Elgin’s Anthony Lazare.

120 — Demetrios Carrera, South Elgin

One week after placing third at Conant’s Hruska Classic, Carrera posted a tech fall followed by two pins, capped with a fall on the title mat against Riverside-Brookfield’s Mateo Arauz.

Carrera topped Saint Ignatius’ Alex Villanueva in their semifinal match, and Arauz beat Saint Viator’s Collin McInerney in the other semifinal at 120.

Villanueva won by tech fall for third place over McInerney, and Waubonsie Valley’s Nathan Duffield won by fall on the fifth-place mat against Richards’ Xavier Martin.

126 – Nabiel Rosario, DePaul College Prep

Rosario provided a bit of everything on his way to winning the title at 126. He started his day with a fall, then won a 14-0 major decision in his semifinal match before winning a 12-7 decision in his finals match against Palatine’s Daniel Derevlyak.

The title match was tied 6-6 in the second period before Rosario scored the final six offensive points of the match. Derevlyak won by fall in his semifinal match against Richard’s Amir Akilani.

Riverside-Brookfield’s Nathan Stanard won by fall for third place against Akilani, and Proviso East’s Jaedon Otero won by fall for third place against Elmwood Park’s Shawn Hanton.

132 – Izaiah Gonzalez, Bremen

After Bremen’s Izaiah Gonzalez won a 13-7 decision in his quarterfinal match, he wasn’t happy with the energy he was bringing. So he did what most people who’d been up since 5 a.m. might do.

“I’m not going to lie — after that match I took a power nap for about twenty minutes up in the bleachers,” Gonzalez said. “That nap really boosted me.”

One semifinal tech fall and one pin in the finals later, and the well-rested Gonzalez had captured the title at 132 pounds.

He’s a young wrestler off to a fast start in 2023.

“I won two matches in two duals this week so I’m 8-0 right now,” Gonzalez said. ”I’m a sophomore and I was on jayvee last year. Last year was a good experience and I feel like I took a big step since then.”

Gonzalez beat Fenton’s Rene Reyna to reach the finals, where he met Riverside-Brookfield’s Jacob Godoy. Godoy reached the finals with a 3-2 semifinal decision win against DePaul’s Johnny Cunningham.

Cunningham won a 6-2 decision in overtime on the third-place mat against Reyna, and Saint Ignatius’ Colton Huff won by fall for third against Leo’s Vandell Dudley.

138 – Max Rosen, DePaul College Prep

Three pins and a tournament title made up Rosen’s day in Bensenville, and nobody in the field at 138 managed to escape the first period against him. Rosen’s pins came at 1:06, 0:26, and 1:19, so he spent a grand total of just under three minutes out on the mats in his three matches in Bensenville.

Rosen topped South Elgin’s Travis Barrera in his semifinal match before beating Riverside-Brookfield’s Ricky Blanco in the finals. Blanco won by tech fall in his semifinal match.

Palatine’s Miguel Allende won by fall on the third-place mat against Barrera, and Proviso East’s Zion Gay won by fall against Fenton’s Esteban Bello for fifth place.

144 – Ethan Wojtowich, Waubonsie Valley

The Warriors’ senior used a pair of pins to reach the finals, where he won a 10-4 decision against Riverside-Brookfield’s Josh Gonzalez.

“I felt a little bit light today and felt like I could move around a little bit more,” Wojtowich said. “I felt a little bit quicker. In my last match I felt like I could scramble somewhat and I felt good in those positions.”

Wojtowich pinned Palatine’s Alex Pena in a semifinal match, while Gonzalez pinned South Elgin’s Dane Henson to reach the finals.

Wojtowich placed third at Barrington’s 32-team Moore-Prettyman tournament to start the season. He’s opening up offensively this year and his approach in his senior year illuminates the evolution that many-a-wrestler goes through.

“Sophomore year I did decent wrestling varsity full-time, and last year I was kind of getting into it but this year, I definitely know where I am and what I want to,” Wojtowich said. “My mindset has changed. Before I might think ‘this guy is so much better than me’. But now I’m going to strive for every win.”

Pena won a major decision on the third-place mat against Henson, and DePaul’s Hugh Costello won a 10-8 decision in overtime on the fifth-place mat against Saint Ignatius’ Ashok Chacko.

150 – Leo Rosas, South Elgin

The tournament’s outstanding wrestler award-winner won his second individual tournament title of the year Saturday, one week after scaling the podium as a champion at Conant’s Hruska Invitational.

Rosas reeled off two pins to reach the finals at Fenton, where he won by fall against Saint Ignatius’ Nate Sanchez.

Rosas is currently ranked seventh at 150 in Rob Sherrill’s Illinois 3A rankings. He tracks his improvement this year to a universal truth in the sport for most top wrestlers in Illinois.

“Off-season work,” Rosas said. “That’s where it counts. You have to wrestle all year round. Now I feel like my gas tank is better. I’m doing cardio, hitting that bike as much as I can, and that has been a big step for me since last year.”

Sanchez gutted out a 7-6 decision in his semifinal match against Fenton’s Omar Diaz. Diaz went on to place third with a 7-5 decision over Riverside-Brookfield’s Jacob Noe, and DePaul’s Andrew Brendel won by fall for fifth place against Proviso East’s Chris Otero.

157 – Dom Paul, Richards

The Richards senior is recovering from a ruptured thumb ligament and wasn’t sure how he’d feel Saturday at Fenton.

Did Paul’s wrapped thumb bother him? “It didn’t today,” Paul said after posting three pins to win the title at 157.

“I felt great today. At first I was a little nervous because one little slip-up could hurt it again. But I felt good and once that adrenaline kicks in, I don’t really feel it. I’m hoping in a couple weeks I don’t even need the brace.”

Paul didn’t have to wrestle a third period Saturday, courtesy of his three pins, capped by a fall on the title mat against Riverside-Brookfield’s Ethan Rivas.

Paul’s varsity odyssey in the sport began three years ago as a 152-pound freshman.

“I was pretty hefty,” Paul said. “I worked down to 145 sophomore year, then down to 138 junior year. But then last summer I put on some size, eating whatever I wanted and hitting the weights hard, and got up to 157.”

Freshman aren’t often able to out-muscle middle-weight upperclassmen, and Paul was once one of those freshman. Three years later, he’s able to both move opponents around and use his technique. “This year, I want to be on that (state finals) podium,” he said.

South Elgin’s Jacob Lopez won by fall for third place against Westmont’s Sean Patterson, and DePaul’s Matthew Brendel took fifth with a major decision win against Niles West’s Ivan Gonzalez.

165 – Jovany Zuniga, Fenton

After losing a match a few days prior to Saturday’s Weiss Invite, Fenton’s Jovany Zuniga knew he had to put it in his rearview mirror, no matter how much that loss stung.

Of course, that loss still served a purpose.

“My confidence was down a little but it also motivated me,” Zuniga said of the loss. “I realize I need to get better.”

Zuniga used a weekday loss as fuel to win a weekend tournament title. He used three pins to get it, capped by a fall on the title mat at 165 against South Elgin’s Kosta Carrera.

Zuniga had to bear down during his semifinal match against Riverside-Brookfield’s Cade Tomkins before winning by third-period fall.

“I had a tough second match and I just kept thinking about being stubborn and not letting it get to me,” Zuniga said. “It’s too easy to relax and lose and you have to force yourself to be stubborn about it.

“I focused on my stuff and once I start controlling the match with my momentum, I was able to get the pin. Now I just want to keep finishing my shots and stay consistent.”

Tomkins won by fall for third place against Palatine’s Drew Dreksler, and Saint Viator’s Devin Adams won by major decision for fifth place against Richards’ Anthony Outsey.

175 – Mike Taheney, Richards

Taheney was yet another individual champion at Fenton who posted a trio of pins Saturday, and he capped his day with a fall on the title mat against Bremen’s Adrian Esparza. 

Taheney won by fall in his semifinal match against Proviso East’s Clarence Wellington to reach the finals, and Esparza pinned Riverside-Brookfield’s Max Strong in their semifinal.

Strong beat Wellington by fall on the third-place mat, while DePaul’s Titus Bautista won a 9-7 decision for fifth place against South Elgin’s Michael Cwenar.

190 – Matt Elzy, Riverside-Brookfield

The junior Elzy gave the team champion Bulldogs their second individual title,

after going into the tournament in a slightly sour mood over the way he’d been wrestling recently.

“I was getting a little complacent, a little sloppy,” Elzy said, “and today I just fought until the end.

“I just think about all the times I didn’t get what I wanted because I wasn’t able to do it, or things went wrong. I think about how I’ll feel after the match because there’s nothing worse than losing when you could have won.”

Elzy’s reinvigoration resulted in three pins Saturday, capped by a second-period fall over Fenton’s Rulin Palacios.

Riverside-Brookfield coach Nick Curby sees Elzy at a different level this season.

“Last year he was like two matches away from qualifying for state,” Curby said. “Now he found a style that fits him and he’s really working hard. Last year he was ‘Headlock Matt’ but we finally worked that out and he has a lot of really good skill. And he’s a lot stronger this year.”

Palatine’s Trey Widloweski won by fall for third place against South Elgin’s Karl Pretzer, and Saint Viator’s Phu Truong won a 3-2 decision for fifth place against Bremen’s Jaime Martinez.

215 – Hunter Wahtola, DePaul College Prep

DePaul tied South Elgin for the most individual champions with three, and Wahtola joined teammates Rosario and Rosen as a title-winner with a fall against Saint Ignatius’ Melson Ngassa in the finals at 215.

Wahtola is a rarity in the sport as a 215-pound varsity freshman. And despite posting three pins and winning the first tournament title of his high school career, the big freshman know what he want to work on.

“Getting out from bottom,” Wahtola said. “It’s all just about hard work and I need to work more on it. And I want to get better on top so I have to work on my positioning.”

Wahtola won by fall in his semifinal match against Waubonsie Valley’s Josh Housour, and Ngassa won by fall over South Elgin’s Joey Cronin to reach the finals.

Housour won a 5-4 decision on the third-place mat against Cronin, and Saint Viator’s Ryan Hutchens won by fall for fifth against Proviso East’s Edward Love.

285 – Tommy Roath, South Elgin

South Elgin’s big man gave the Storm its third individual champion when he won by fall at 30 seconds on the title mat against Fenton’s Josh Zuniga. Roath reached the finals with an 8-2 semifinal decision against Niles West’s Alex Hernandez.

Zuniga posted a pair of pins to reach the finals, including a fall against Leo’s Nicholas Armour in their semifinal match.

Armour went on to win a 7-0 decision on the third-place mat against Hernandez, and Waubonsie Valley’s Leonidas Hoson won by fall for fifth against Bremen’s Marco Olivera.

2023 Steve Weiss Invitational championship matches:

106 – Julius Avendano (South Elgin) F 1:44 Dimitri Dobre (DePaul)

113 – Edgar Mosquera (Riverside-Brookfield) D 5-2 Oliver Chapman (DePaul)

120 – Demetrios Carrera (South Elgin) F 2:25 Mateo Arauz (Riverside-Brookfield)

126 – Nabiel Rosario (DePaul) D 12-7 Daniel Derevlyak (Palatine)

132 – Izaiah Gonzalez (Bremen) F 2:55 Jacob Godoy (Riverside-Brookfield)

138 – Max Rosen (DePaul) F 1:19 Ricky Blanco (Riverside-Brookfield)

144 – Ethan Wojtowich (Waubonsie Valley) D 10-4 Josh Gonzalez (Riverside-Brookfield)

150 – Leo Rosas (South Elgin) F :51 Nate Sanchez (Saint Ignatius)

157 – Dom Paul (Richards) F 2:45 Ethan Rivas (Riverside-Brookfield)

165 – Jovany Zuniga (Fenton) F :53 Kosta Carrera (South Elgin)

175 – Mike Taheney (Richards) F 4:21 Adrian Esparza (Bremen)

190 – Mike Elzy (Riverside-Brookfield) F 2:41 Rulin Palacios (Fenton)

215 – Hunter Wahtola (DePaul) F2:29 Melson Ngassa (Saint Ignatius)

285 – Tommy Roath (South Elgin) F 0:30 Josh Zuniga (Fenton) 

Final team scores: Riverside-Brookfield 235.5, South Elgin 206.5, DePaul 184, Fenton 111, Saint Ignatius 110.5, Palatine 106, Richards 98, Waubonsie Valley 83, Bremen 82.5, Saint Viator 78, Proviso East 76, Fenton JV 46.5, Niles West 46, Leo 36.5, Westmont 25, Elmwood Park 9.

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