CSU Bakersfield welcomed the fourth head coach in the wrestling program’s storied history as newly-signed Manny Rivera was greeted by current wrestlers, staff and the community at a press conference in the Icardo Room on Friday, July 8.
Former head coach Mike Mendoza resigned from the position back in May 20, and on Wednesday, July 6, CSUB Athletics Director Kenneth Siegfried announced he signed Rivera to a two-year contract and will make $70,000 annually as the new wrestling head coach.
The search process went about a month and two weeks.
Manny Rivera signed a two-year contract with CSU Bakersfield on Wednesday, July 6. Photo by North Dakota State Athletic Communications
Manny Rivera signed a two-year contract with CSU Bakersfield on Wednesday, July 6.
Photo by North Dakota State Athletic Communications
Rivera, who had been the lead assistant at North Dakota State University the previous five years, said he is extremely excited to lead the program.
“One thing I keep saying is that I am a product of California,” said Rivera, who is originally from El Monte, Calif. “I’m excited to be back here and I’m excited to work with these guys from California.
“I really believe in the wrestling here. I believe that special things can happen here and have happened here and that’s really where the excitement stems from.”
Rivera added that it was always his plan to be a head coach and to return to California.
“I’m proud to be from California, and I knew if I had an opportunity to come back, I would be all over it and it came to fruition,” he said.
Rivera was very excited when he received the call from Siegfried.
“I felt pretty good through the interview process but you never know,” he said. “Once I got the call, I was ready to come [to CSUB].”
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,” said Rivera. “To be the next one in line, it is really unique and I’m very privileged, honored and excited to take over.”
Siegfried said it feels wonderful to have a new head coach for the program.
“We wanted to get someone in here for our student athletes as quick as possible, but more importantly we wanted to have the right person,” Siegfried said. “That’s what we have.”
Siegfried added Rivera is the perfect fit.
“I just see him coming in, supporting the vision of our department and the wrestling program,” he said. “He fits the identity, just that we know our program when they step out on the mat they are going to continue to battle. I will tell you that I feel extremely good about having Coach Rivera.”
Rivera will be coaching a CSUB team which finished with a Pac-12 best 4-1 record in dual competitions. The Roadrunners also had five wrestlers (Ian Nickell, Bryce Hammond, Coleman Hammond, Adam Fierro and Reuben Franklin) qualify to the NCAA Nationals in New York.
CSUB redshirt-junior Coleman Hammond, who competes at 149 pounds, is excited to have a new coach.
“We’ve all been kind of in a daze since finding out about Coach Mendoza, so it’s good,” Hammond said. “I think the committee did a good job of getting someone who’s going to do a good job and cares a lot about California wrestling.
“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.”
Rivera’s philosophy for CSUB is that they will be the most prepared team.
He said they will train hard, they are going to get ready and they are going to step out onto the mat and be confident with all the work they put in.
“As far as style goes, I want a team that is going to score points and be exciting that is going to wrestle aggressively from all positions,” he said.
Hammond said Rivera’s style is the perfect fit because Bakersfield has always been about wrestling tough and being prepared.
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.
Rivera was found success as a wrestler.
He wrestled at the University of Minnesota where he was a four-time letter winner and a starter of the 2007 NCAA Division I Wrestling National Championship team. He was a three-time NCAA qualifier at Minnesota and earned All-America honors as a senior after finishing seventh at 141 pounds at the NCAA championships. He finished his career with a record of 113-40 and 27 pins.
After Minnesota, Rivera then went on to be an assistant at the University of Virginia and then at his alma mater Minnesota from 2008 to 2010 before going to NDSU. During his time with the NDSU Bisons, he helped coach 2 NCAA All-Americans and 11 NCAA National Qualifiers.
This is his first head coaching job, but he is approaching it with a chip on his shoulder.
“I have to prove myself and I want to prove myself, and this is the place to do it,” said Rivera.
When it comes to CSUB wrestling, fundraising for the program is something that comes up because it is one of three sports that must raise all of its own money.
However, Rivera feels confident in himself, the support from alumni and support from the community.
“I’m very confident that everything is heading in the right direction,” he said.