The three-time state champion from Kennesaw Mountain won the 182-pound national championship in the Greco-Roman junior division, helping Georgia finish fifth among 47 teams Tuesday.
Georgia scored 31 points to finish just behind New York, which totaled 34. Illinois (69) won the team title, followed by Minnesota (51) and Utah (38).
In his third season with Team Georgia, Rivera collected his fifth All-America nod and second national championship. The rising senior was a four-time All-American in the cadet division in 2012 and 2013. He was the 182-pound national runner-up in Greco-Roman last year before claiming the freestyle national championship in the same weight class.
Tuesday’s national title and All-America nod was Rivera’s first in the junior division.
“I’m pretty excited,” he said. “It’s really apparent technique is important at this level. In the cadets, I was just bigger than the other guys, so I got away with stuff. With these junior guys, you have to use more technique than muscle. Using my technique and doing what the coaches have been saying helped me win the title.”
Rivera’s road to the championship included three technical falls, including one in the semifinals, a pin in the quarterfinals and two decisions. He beat Ohio’s Andrew Kowal 4-2 in the finals.
“I tried not to think too much out there,” Rivera said. “I just got on the mat, got a feel for my opponent and figured out the techniques I needed to win.
“It feels great to be a national champion again, but I’m really more excited to win for the team and represent the state of Georgia. We want to keep making a name for ourselves, and I’m glad I’m able to do my part.”
Rivera’s victory assured Georgia of claiming at least one national champion in either the Greco-Roman or freestyle divisions for the third straight season. He’s also the team’s fourth national champion in five years.
Joining Rivera as junior Greco-Roman All-Americans were North Gwinnett’s Todd Small (second, 106 pounds), Alexander’s Roman Boylen (fourth, 138), Buford’s Rudy Guillen (second, 138), Perry’s Derekston Williams (eighth, 145) and Parkview’s Andrew Webb (sixth, 152).
Two female newcomers to Team Georgia, Peachtree Ridge’s Hailey Horton and Cambridge’s Alexandria Enriquez, also performed well. Horton won a national championship and All-America honors in her first appearance, claiming the 101-pound title in the cadet freestyle division. Enriquez was a double All-American, placing fourth at 124 pounds in cadet freestyle and third at 125 in junior freestyle.
“This was Hailey’s first time out here, and she took it to them,” said Mike Miller, a coach for Team Georgia and the head coach of Life’s wrestling program. “The whole group keeps improving on the boys’ and girls’ side.”
The only other Cobb County wrestler competing for Team Georgia was Wheeler’s Aslan Kilic. A rising junior, Kilic he 3-2 in the 120-pound junior Greco-Roman division and did not place.
“I’m really excited for Team Georgia,” said Josh Porter, the South Paulding coach and former Harrison assistant also with the team in Fargo. “We had some good results. The kids responded to the training all summer to get prepared for dual and for Fargo. These are coachable kids who want to learn.”
None of Georgia’s Greco-Roman cadet wrestlers placed, as the team found itself tied with 15 other teams for 32nd in a field of 46.
Competition will continue through Saturday, with the junior and cadet freestyle championships. Cadet finals will be held Friday, with the junior finals Saturday.
“I think our chances are even better in freestyle,” Porter said. “Freestyle is closely related to folkstyle, which is what we all wrestle in Georgia. Our team should have a pretty good showing.”