Rivera’s wrestling journey

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Manny Rivera is the fourth head wrestling coach in CSUB history. Photo by Esteban Ramirez/The Runner

Esteban Ramirez

Managing Editor

 

CSU Bakersfield wrestling has a lot of history, but it’s also a sport that has only had three different coaches.

However, on July 8, Athletics Director Kenneth Siegfried made Manny Rivera the fourth head wrestling coach in the program’s storied history.

After coaching as an assistant at North Dakota State, Rivera now gets to return to his home state and be a head coach for the first time in the sport that has done so much for him.

“To me everything has come from wrestling,” said Rivera. “I come from a little bit of a wrestling family. All my brothers wrestled. I’m the youngest of four boys, so my three older brothers wrestled.

“Wrestling is just kind of something that just shaped my life and shaped my brothers’ lives, but something I’ve been passionate about since I started to get into it.”

But how did this family tradition of wrestlers begin?

Rivera’s oldest brother, Rudy, had a friend who wrestled and got Rudy into it and ended up enjoying the sport.

That led to all the brothers, including Manny, to get into it through a wrestling club.

“He was kind of the trailblazer for wrestling in our family,” he said.

He said even though they played different sports growing up, wrestling drew them all in because of the one-on-one combat that the sport brings.

But Manny is the one that stuck with it.

He started wrestling when he was 10 years old, and once he got to Rosemead High School in El Monte, Calif., he started to take it seriously.

He placed in the state tournament and won a high school national title his senior year, which led to getting noticed by universities that began to recruit him.

Eventually, he decided to go on to wrestle for the University of Minnesota.

However, it wasn’t a smooth transition from high school wrestling to college wrestling for Rivera.

“I go out there, and it was kind of like starting all over,” he said. “A lot of things went into that. I was really young; I was in a room with a lot of talent and really felt like I was starting all over but I knew I had a lot of people pushing me to become better. As much as I struggled when I got there, I knew that was a good thing.”

He said after being beat out for the starting position in freshman year, it forced him to take a look at himself and decide what he was going to do to be successful at the college level.

“I think it was that disappointment that really made me just focus and really not want that to happen again,” he said.

He then took his intensity to a higher level and did things with a sense of urgency

He became a three-time NCAA qualifier at Minnesota and earned All-America honors as a senior.

Though he was ranked in the top two spots for most of his senior year, he finished seventh at 141 pounds at the NCAA championships.

But Rivera added what salvaged the year for him was that his team won the 2007 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championship.

He finished his career at Minnesota with a record of 113-40 and 27 pins.

After graduating, he continued to hone his craft while taking some graduate classes and helping to coach as a graduate assistant.

He earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology and his master’s degree in sports leadership.

He said he always wanted to continue to be involved in wrestling and decided back in 2010 that coaching in the college ranks was what he wanted to do as a career.

“It has definitely opened a lot of doors and a lot of opportunities for me,” he said.

After Minnesota, Rivera then went on to be an assistant at the University of Virginia before going to NDSU. During his time with the NDSU Bisons, he helped coach 2 NCAA All-Americans and 11 NCAA National Qualifiers.

Rivera said it’s unique getting to coach wrestling in Bakersfield.

“It’s special, and it’s rare,” he said on the community’s support of wrestling. “You don’t see that in a lot of places. For me, it’s an amazing place for me to be a coach. To have that type of support and to have that type of energy and people who are interested in wrestling, it’s a unique thing that you don’t see it at a lot of other places.”

He added it is “a very special thing” to be just the fourth head coach in the program’s history.

“I know that there have been some great coaches that have come through here,” he said. “To be the next one inline, it is really unique, and I’m very privileged, honored and excited to take over.”

CSUB redshirt-junior Coleman Hammond, who competes at 149 pounds, is excited to have a new coach.

“I know a lot of people were worried about someone coming here and then leaving right away for another job, but I feel confident in the decision. I think we are all pleased with it.”

Sophomore Carlos Herrera, who competed at 133 last year, said it will be a good change for the program.

“Rivera is going to get the job done, and the way he runs things with his system, I think everyone is going to fall into place and wrestle well,” Herrera said.