Welcome to One-on-One, The Daily Northwestern’s new sports interview where The Daily sits down with a Northwestern athlete for a conversation about athletics, their interests and more. Sebastian Rivera is an All-American wrestler who has yet to lose a match at 125 pounds this season and started the season with 20 straight victories until bumping up to 133 pounds to face No. 1 Stevan Micic. At the Midlands Championships in December, he defeated No. 2 Spencer Lee in the final to win the 125 pounds title. This interview has been edited for clarity.
The Daily: Over the last few weeks you’ve had opportunities to face some of the best wrestlers in the country, but for what seems like different reasons — whether it be a forfeit or sending in the secondary guy — you haven’t faced some of those guys including Spencer Lee. What goes through your mind when you don’t get to face those guys?
Rivera: When I get a forfeit, I’m just like, I don’t know, it sucks. You train all week for this one guy and then he doesn’t show up or you don’t get to wrestle him. I didn’t have a match for like two weeks. My first match was Iowa and that’s crazy to think that in the middle of the Big Ten season, I can have that many forfeits, like a whole weekend without wrestling somebody. I mean it sucks. You train all week to wrestle these guys and they don’t show up. What are you going to do, different reasons, injuries, they got to do what they gotta do. So, it’s tough.
The Daily: Do you think they’re avoiding you?
Rivera: In some cases, it’s obvious. I won’t say which ones. I know others that have had concussions, stuff like that. But other cases I know they’re just avoiding wrestling.
The Daily: Do you think that dodging is good for the sport?
Rivera: It’s the worst for the sport. I mean you see everybody saying it. It’s not good for wrestling. You want these big time matchups that get people watching, get people that maybe don’t know much about the sport. They see a big time matchup, they’re like ‘Wow I like wrestling now’ and now they’re interested in wrestling. But when we were dodging these big time matchups, it’s tough to get those other people that aren’t really in the sport to come in and chime in and watch.
The Daily: When do you find out if you’re not going to wrestle somebody?
Rivera: Weigh-ins. If they dont weight in, it’s pretty simple there. Or if you don’t see them warming up. Some of these guys will have street clothes, when everyone else is warming up. So that happened twice last week against Wisconsin and Minnesota. Nothing you can really do.
The Daily: If Coach Storniolo ever came up to you and said they’re going to sit you for a coach’s decision, as some of these coaches called it, what would go through your mind?
Rivera: You gotta respect it in some sense. But then you also got to be like, if you want to go, they can’t tell you that you can’t go. There’s some times where coaches told me you don’t have to go and I’m like probably the best decision for me because I didn’t feel that great. But if I felt ready to go and he told me to sit, I’m gonna have something to say about it. Most times when they tell me to sit they say it’s the right decision so I respect it but I can see the other side where you’re like, ‘Coach, I’m ready to go. You’re not sitting me this match.’
The Daily: Now you’re probably are going to face these guys later down the road, definitely Big Ten championships, maybe even NCAAs. Does this give you extra motivation to sort of show them what you got?
Rivera: Yeah they haven’t felt the hands yet.