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Gainesville High's new wrestling coach Roberto Rivera sets lofty goals for the Red Elephants
Three coaches in the last three years have helmed the wrestling program, and on Monday, Gainesville’s athletic director Adam Lindsey motioned a plan to fix the instability
Roberto Rivera will take over as Gainesville High School's wrestling coach this year after rebuilding two programs at Pebblebrook High School and Kennesaw Mountain High School. - courtesy Roberto Rivera

A missing link has held Gainesville High School’s athletic department out of balance. 

Three coaches in the last three years have helmed the wrestling program, and on Monday, Gainesville’s athletic director Adam Lindsey motioned a plan to fix the instability.

That plan involved the hire of Roberto Rivera, an “expert” in the wrestling field and pursuer of mentoring teenagers into young leaders.

Rivera recounts an old adage:

“Once you wrestle, everything in life is easier.” 

“That’s very true for the people who have been in the wrestling community,” Rivera explained. 

Lindsey believes wrestling is the “glue sport,” adhering all others together. And so the pressure of hiring a new wrestling coach of grandeur began building over a two-year span.

The search led to Rivera. 

The wrestling connoisseur constructed programs at Pebblebrook High School and Kennesaw Mountain High School, earning seven region titles and 10 individual state titles. Lindsey believes him to be a coach who students can lean on, learn from and grow under.

“He has exactly what we need here at Gainesville to jump-start this program,” Lindsey said.

For Rivera, the overhaul of the Gainesville High program will be the most difficult of his career. At the age of 46, he will be redesigning an unestablished program, an easier task for a 25 year-old. But alas, this quest will quench a desire long overdue — self-fulfillment.

Rivera always dreamed of combining coaching with a leadership role in a school district. Gainesville has set up a schedule where he can be the wrestling coach while also serving as the alternative school coordinator. 

Larger school districts steer away from the duality, but the stability of Gainesville allows him to breach what used to be impossible. 

“It’s a challenge, but I’ve missed (wrestling) for the last four years,” Rivera said. “I knew I was going to get back to it, I just didn’t know when the opportunity was going to come. It kind of just fell in my lap.”

Over the last four years, Rivera was solely an administrator at Marietta City Schools in Paulding County. He sent his resume as an administrator to the Gainesville school system this past year, and Lindsey intercepted it once he noticed Rivera’s wrestling background.

His accolades and experiences sounded strangely familiar, taking Lindsey back to his former position as athletic director at Jackson County High School.

He remembered meeting Rivera and watching his Kennesaw Mountain team compete at wrestling tournaments held at Jackson County.

“I was immediately coming back to the dominant teams and the dominant athletes he had coached,” Lindsey said. “I was getting excited thinking about the possibility (of him at Gainesville). I threw (the job offer) out at him and asked what he thought about this. ... It was, oddly enough, one where he did not apply for the job. I called and asked him.”

The blue-collar community of Gainesville excites Rivera the most. He believes the ingrained culture of working hard everyday — a similar mentality he grew around — will overlap into training.

The process of building a new program won’t be easy for Rivera, and he hopes his student athletes won’t wear the pressure involved with the rebuild.

“It’s not going to be overnight,” Rivera said. “But to get to where we want to, it’s going to take a lot of hard work and determination and a full commitment not only from them but their parents and the community and everyone who is involved.”

This fall, Rivera hopes to lead his team to a top 15 finish in the state, knowing that every bit of success starts with him. 

“I can’t ask them give me 100% and I only gave 60,” Rivera said. “I’m the face of the program, and they have to understand that everything I give, I want them to give the same. 

“We are all in this together.”

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