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The La Joya High School wrestling team has two state qualifiers among the two boys and three girls who competed at the Region IV-5A meet in San Antonio two weeks ago. The Coyotes have quality even if they do not have quantity.
As one of La Joya’s two state qualifiers, Kristian Rivera came within one win of bringing home a regional championship. Winning his first three matches in the 220-lb. weight class, Rivera advanced to the championship match where he put up a good fight but fell short against last year’s regional silver medalist Nick Mabry from New Braunfels’ Canyon High School.
Despite his championship match loss, Rivera’s season record currently stands at 32-2. He went two and out at last year’s regional meet. That combined with dealing with a less than ideal home situation makes his success this year even more impressive, according to first year La Joya Head Wrestling Coach James Muzquiz.
“Kristian has had a very hard life,” said Muzquiz. “He has gone from home to home, but wrestling has brought some stability into his life. Wrestling runs in his family. He has two uncles and one brother who not only wrestled, but they wrestled well. I believe his uncles were regional qualifiers and his brother Frankie was a state qualifier here at La Joya in 2008 under my predecessor Joe Lopez.”
According to his coach, Rivera can be a real jokester during practice, but when the time comes to take the mat against an opponent, he’s as serious as they come.
“Kristian is quite the card and cut-up at practices,” said Muzquiz. “He has a real personality on the mat. When it comes to his matches, however, he is extremely confident and he expects to take the gold medal at each and every meet…even at regionals. He was disappointed with the silver medal at San Antonio even though I told him that he should be proud of what he had accomplished.”
Even though the senior wrestler had won all but one of his matches prior to the regional meet, Muzquiz decided that it was time to see what Rivera could do if he removed the reigns and let him go all out against his regional opponents.
“In previous meets I held Kristian back because he doesn’t have to go all out to win…he’s that good,” said Muzquiz. “At the regional meet, however, I decided to change tactics and just let him go. He won his first three matches to advance to the championship match. He gave Mabry a tough match, but he lost a minor decision by a score of 3-7 to earn the silver medal.”
At only 5’ 6” tall, Rivera will most likely be the shortest wrestler in the 220-lb. weight class at the state meet. His short stature, however, is something that he can use to his advantage, His opponents have a tendency to underestimate him and think that they’ve got an easy win on their hands. Even so, Muzquiz realizes that Rivera will be going up against the best of the best at the state meet and he will need more than just the element of surprise to bring home a medal from state.
“At the state meet Kristian will be going up against wrestlers from Houston and Dallas that we don’t get to see, so it’s hard to say how he will do,” said Muzquiz. With good seeding and with luck in the brackets, however, he could do very well. I’ve told him that I want him to do two things at state…have fun and get revenge on Mabry. But knowing him he will have his eyes set on the gold medal, as he always does.”
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The Progress Times is the hometown newspaper for the local communities of Mission, Sharyland, Alton, Palmview, La Joya and surrounding areas in Western Hidalgo County. We have a staff of veteran reporters who work diligently every week to bring our readers the latest news as it affects their hometown area and people.