Freestyle wrestling dominated the final four days of the weeklong event, and Kennesaw Mountain’s Justan Rivera placed eighth in the junior division at 182 pounds to earn All-America honors Saturday. Collins Hill’s Sean Russell, who also wrestled in the junior division, earned Team Georgia’s other All-America nod with his runner-up finish at 120.
The two all-America accolades fell well short of what Team Georgia was able to accomplish earlier in the week, when it totaled eight all-Americans in Greco-Roman.
“Freestyle-wise, some of our all-Americans from Greco-Roman went deep into their brackets and just missed out on being all-Americans by one or two matches,” said Team Georgia coach Josh Porter, a former Harrison assistant. “We took a young freestyle team to Fargo, but not young in terms of wrestling experience, because a lot of these guys are going to be seniors this year. They were young in terms of freestyle experience.
“We’ll put a plan together for Team Georgia to make sure we don’t come up short in these matches next year. We want to get some of these kids who are on the verge and guys coming back to get over the hump.”
Rivera’s eighth-place showing in freestyle, coupled with his 182-pound Greco-Roman national championship, made him a double all-American for the third straight year. In his third season with Team Georgia, the three-time state champion boosted his total to six all-America nods and two national championships.
A rising senior, Rivera earned four all-America nods in the cadet division in 2012 and 2013. He was the 182-pound national runner-up in Greco-Roman last year before taking the freestyle national championship in the same weight class.
“Justan definitely wanted to be a double, freestyle and Greco-Roman, champion,” Porter said, “but he was a little beat-up after Greco and hurt his chest. We noticed how it was affecting him on Day 2 of freestyle that he just wasn’t the same kid out there.
“He did his best to get to the medal rounds, because he wanted to be a double all-American, and we medically forfeited him in his seventh-place match. Injuries happen, and he did his best.”
Russell also did his best for Team Georgia. In his first trip to Fargo, the four-time state champion received a first-round bye in his weight class before outscoring his opponents 53-1, en route to the final. He led Ohio’s Austin Assad 5-1 in the championship before losing 11-8.
“Sean had a fantastic tournament,” Porter said. “He had the lead, but the kid came back. It was disappointing for him. He wanted to win. It was his first time at Fargo and to make the finals was a huge accomplishment.”
Rivera’s Greco-Roman national championship assured Team Georgia of at least one national champion in either wrestling discipline 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, Alexander’s Roman Boylen, Buford’s Rudy Guillen, Perry’s Derekston Williams and Parkview’s Andrew Webb.
Peachtree Ridge’s Hailey Horton won a national championship and All-America honors at 101 pounds in the women’s cadet freestyle division. Cambridge’s Alexandria Enriquez was a double All-American, placing fourth at 124 pounds in cadet freestyle and third at 125 in junior freestyle.
Rivera’s double All-America nod ensured Team Georgia of at least one double All-American for the eighth straight season.
Aslan Kilic, a rising junior at Wheeler, also competed for Team Georgia. He went 2-2 in the 120-pound freestyle division and did not place.
Team Georgia scored eight points and tied for 18th among 48 teams in the freestyle junior division Saturday. New Jersey won with 58 points.
Illinois (88) won the freestyle cadet division, with Georgia failing to place.