Rivera, Wade emerge from Class AAAAAA tourney as champs
by Carlton D. White
cwhite@mdjonline.com
February 23, 2014 04:06 AM | 2579 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The list of four-time champions is an exclusive club in Georgia, and Justan Rivera moved one step closer to gaining membership. The Kennesaw Mountain junior won a final-round decision on Archer’s Quinn Miller on Saturday to claim his third straight title.
<BR>Staff photo by Todd Hull
The list of four-time champions is an exclusive club in Georgia, and Justan Rivera moved one step closer to gaining membership. The Kennesaw Mountain junior won a final-round decision on Archer’s Quinn Miller on Saturday to claim his third straight title.
Staff photo by Todd Hull
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JOHNS CREEK — Kennesaw Mountain’s Justan Rivera and McEachern’s Christian Wade walked away as state champions at the conclusion of the Class AAAAAA traditional state tournament Saturday at Chattahoochee High School.

Rivera, a junior, captured his third straight title following a grueling 5-1 victory over Archer’s Quinn Miller at 182 pounds. Wade, a senior, squeezed out a 3-2 triple-overtime win over Newton’s Alfred Palomino at 220 to win his first state championship.

After a scoreless first period, Rivera showed his grit in the second by controlling Miller from the top position the entire frame. That proved to be a big advantage for him after he scored a 1-point escape 12 seconds into the third period and took down Quinn 10 seconds later for a 3-0 score.

Rivera let Quinn escape at the 1:12 mark, only to take him down again 20 seconds later for the 5-1 margin, then controlled the match from the top the rest of the way.

“I faced Quinn earlier in the season and, right off the bat, I knew he was a really good defensive wrestler,” Rivera said. “I knew I either had to work on the top or on the bottom. At neutral, he got the best of me, but I showed (Saturday) how I am — not only on neutral, but on top and bottom as well.”

If Rivera wins next season, he’ll become the fifth Cobb County wrestler to claim four state championships, joining Harrison’s Sean Hage (1992-95), McEachern’s Todd Lambert (1992-95), Walker’s Chris Rodrigues (1997-2000) and McEachern’s Brandon Westerman (2006-09).

“It’s hard to explain,” Rivera said. “Everybody’s looking down on that one match and (wrestlers) know that that’s their moment to shine. To have all these supporters coming out and watching me and supporting me, there’s no words to describe it really.”

Along with Pope, Kennesaw Mountain has now crowned at least one state champion in each of the last six years. Rivera’s older brother, Jonatan, won two state titles in 2009 and 2011.

“That’s the standard every year,” said Kennesaw Mountain coach Roberto Rivera, the brothers’ father. “We didn’t have a great tournament as a team, but we want to make sure we always have somebody in the finals. We strive for that in our practice room.”

Wade did what he did best the entire tournament — win matches by one point. He did it in his first three matches, and he did it one last time in the final.

Wade scored an escape in the second period, and Palomino added one in the third. Neither wrestler scored in the first overtime, and the match remained tied at 1-all.

Palomino was a strong wrestler on top, but Wade finally got an escape point with 9 seconds left in the second overtime. Palomino answered with an escape 5 seconds into his 30-second portion of the second overtime, and the match moved into sudden-victory tied 2-all.

Wade took the down position in the third overtime and powered into a rollout with 16 seconds left for the 3-2 win.

“I knew it was going to go into overtime,” Wade said. “(Palomino) deferred the first coin flip. I guess he didn’t know that, if we went into triple overtime, I could choose, so, I picked down, and I just kept on standing up. He’s a tough guy up top, but I just fought. I just wanted it.

“It feels unreal (to win a state championship). I’m not getting it now. I’ll probably get it later on (Sunday) that I actually won state. It feels good to accomplish something you work hard on for four years for a six-minute match. It’s just like life. If you’re clutch on the mat, you’ll be clutch in life and be successful.”

Wade became McEachern’s first state champion since Westerman in 2009.

“The matchup was always (Palomino) against us the entire two weeks (of practice),” McEachern coach Ben Hamburg said. “We had a chance to watch some of his matches and talk to some of the guys who wrestled him. We knew he was going to be tough on his feet, and he was going to throw legs in on top, so Christian did a good job of game-planning with that with our heavyweight (Uche Nkadi). Uche really helped Christian get ready for this match and it all paid off in the end.

“I’m so happy for him. Christian has worked so hard in the room. He’s a three-time state-placer and a first-time state champion for me. He epitomizes what McEachern wrestling is starting to come back to do.”

Joining Rivera and Wade as Cobb County placers were Marietta’s Jonathan Gates (second, 170) and Jeron Holsey (third, 285), McEachern’s Nkadi (fourth, 285) and Josh Farara (sixth, 170), Walton’s Eric Smith (fourth, 220) and Jacob Murphy (fifth, 138), Wheeler’s Aslan Kilic (fourth, 113) and Hillgrove’s Carlin Powell (sixth, 138) and Lassiter’s Phillip Murray (sixth, 195).

Archer (249 points) won the team title, followed by Camden County (183.5) and Collins Hill (102.5).

McEachern (45) and Marietta (44.5) were eighth and ninth, respectively, while Kennesaw Mountain (35.5) was 16th. Walton, Wheeler, Hillgrove, Lassiter and Harrison placed outside the top 20.
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