Written by: Pablo Di Maria
Friday afternoon I had the opportunity to speak with new CSU Bakersfield Head Coach Manny Rivera about the future of the CSU Bakersfield program. Rivera had a standout wrestling career at Minnesota. He was a four-year starter for the Golden Gophers and a three-time NCAA qualifier, earning All-America accolades in 2008 when he took seventh place at 141 pounds. He also was a member of Minnesota’s 2007 NCAA Championship team. Rivera finished his Minnesota career with a 113-40 record and 27 falls. As a senior, he was a team captain. As a junior, he carried a 35-match winning streak at one point during the season, the sixth-longest winning streak in school history. Rivera has been successful at the international level as well. He was a bronze medalist at the 2010 Pan-American Games as a member of the Mexican National Team. A native of El Monte, California, Rivera earned a psychology degree from Minnesota in 2008.
TOM – How are you planning on connecting with the alumni given you have no history with the program? How are you going to reassure the CSU Bakersfield faithful that you will carry the torch and take the program to new heights?
Rivera – I have already met with some of the alumni and distinguished people in the program and I have reassured them that I am 100% committed to help the team achieve success at the national level. My office will always be open for those that want to speak to me if they have any concerns about how I will be running the program.
TOM – CSU Bakersfield has always sustained a tradition of that hard-nosed in your face kind of toughness, what is your plan to restore that?
Rivera – I believe that Coach Mike Mendoza did a great job in teaching the wrestlers to always be aggressive and never let your guard down. I will maintain that tradition and bring some of that Minnesota style of wrestling to Bakersfield.
TOM – Will you be teaching at CSU Bakersfield or just concentrate on coaching the team?
Rivera – I will not be teaching at CSU Bakersfield. My sole purpose of coming to this university is to concentrate my entire time and energy on the team. I will try my best to not just help the athletes be great on the mat, but in life as well.
TOM – What qualities would you look for if you were hiring an assistant and have you hired any assistant coaches, yet?
Rivera – Having a great coaching resume is what I am looking for in a candidate. There are many coaches around the nation that were not great athletes in their respective sports, but are great motivators and coaches. I have a few coaches on my radar who I believe will be a great addition to the team. Expect some exciting news in the near future.
TOM – Will you be at the Roadrunner camp so the youth campers can meet you and work with you?
Rivera – Yes, I will be there on Wednesday, July the 27th. I will be socializing and teaching technique to the campers, parents and all those that attend the camp.
TOM – Do you plan on recruiting any wrestlers outside of CA or do you plan to stay with the current model of a 100% California roster?
Rivera – I will be recruiting kids from all over the country to help CSU Bakersfield become a better wrestling program. If you noticed, some of the best wrestling teams in Division I, II, III and NAIA, have wrestlers from all over the country and not just one state.
TOM – Any transfers coming into the program? Any confirmed transfers out of CSU Bakersfield or is the whole team staying?
Rivera – As of now, no CSU Bakersfield wrestler will be leaving the program. As well as no transfers are scheduled to transfer to CSU Bakersfield.
TOM – Will Jeff Silveria be staying at CSU Bakersfield and helping you coach the team?
Rivera – Yes, he will. Jeff has done a great job helping athletes become Division I National Qualifiers and NCAA All-Americans for a while now. He will be staying with the program and continue to work his magic with the program.
TOM – Are you straight forward with the athletes and parents when you recruit them?
Rivera – Yes, I am. When I go after a recruit, I tell them and their parents what they should anticipate when they come to the school. I let them know much of a scholarship their son will get, the weight class we prefer them to compete at and what we expect from them. I am straight forward with them and never deceive them.
TOM – Do you plan on fundraising and what type of activities would you use?
Rivera – Yes, I do. I have a few ideas in my mind that I need to speak with the rest of the staff to make them become a reality. I want the program to attend the best tournaments and compete with the best individuals in the nation. And for that, we need a steady income to help us achieve those goals.
TOM – Why do you feel that you were selected as the head coach of CSU Bakersfield?
Rivera – I believe the committee took noticed of my coaching expertise while I was coaching at the University of Virginia and North Dakota State. They knew I was the right person to lead the Road Runners after the departure of Mike Mendoza.
TOM – Have you started the recruiting process already?
Rivera – Yes, I have. I have been working on landing some of the best wrestlers from California and the country to help CSU Bakersfield become not just a power in the PAC-12 but in the country. In fact, I will fly to Fargo, North Dakota tomorrow morning to recruit new wrestlers to the team.
TOM – Being a son of Mexican immigrants and growing up in a tough neighborhood, do you believe you are living the American Dream?
Rivera – That is the beauty of this country. That if you work hard on your goals, anything can be achieved in life. I do believe that I am currently living the “American Dream” as I enjoy what I do for a living. I always told myself that I was never going to become a self-fulfilling prophecy because of my surroundings.