Coaches in District 5A-4 were disappointed when Brad Gilbert broke the news to them. Most thought that Tahlequah defensive lineman Wesley Rivas was a senior in 2012.
Nope, he was only a junior.
“He’s, quite possibly, the best defensive lineman in the district,” Gilbert, Tahlequah’s head coach, said during spring practice in May. “He’s very explosive. Last year, he gave everybody fits.”
When Tahlequah lined up on defense in 2012, it has hard to miss Rivas and his teammate, Jarel Todd. The year, however, Rivas will have to work alongside a new running mate with Todd no longer around due to graduation.
“I’m going to miss that guy,” Rivas said. “...He taught me to play hard and how to read the plays on offense.”
Gilbert is glad to have Rivas back for one more season. After all, having him around allows the other defensive lineman more one-on-one matchups with offensive linemen.
“He’s an impact player,” Gilbert said of Rivas, a 6-foot-1, 280-pound senior. “He’s a young man that demands a double team on every play. Very rarely do other teams block him one on one. He makes things easier, defensively. That’s what he brings to the table. And even when he is double-teamed, he still makes plays, and that’s what is great about Wesley.”
And to make matters worse for opposing teams, Rivas said he’s a much better player now than he was at the end of the season in November.
“I’ve progressed a lot,” he said. “I keep learning more and more every day.”
In addition to his duties on the defensive line, Rivas will also be turned around and positioned at left guard on the offensive line. But Gilbert said there will be a reserve ready to spell Rivas, when needed, to allow Rivas to stay fresh for defense.
“He’s starting at left guard on offense, but we will have someone there to spell him at times,” Gilbert said. “...The reserve is there to keep him fresh defensively, because we want him to play as much as he can on defense.”
Despite his ability to command so much attention on the defensive line, Rivas still has not captured any consideration by college coaches at this point, Gilbert said. But Gilbert also said he expects that to change.
“He’s a little bit undersized on the defensive line, so he isn’t getting any college looks right now,” Gilbert said. “That doesn’t mean he can’t play at the next level, and we believe that.”