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'A' Player

Photos by Dan Bishop

November 2013

Sergio Rivas first played pool in the basement of his West Allis home when he was 10 years old. Four years later he has some lofty goals when it comes to shooting stick. "I want to be untouchable by anybody," he says.

That statement by the West Allis Hale freshman sounds at the very least overly optimistic, but the kid has the game to back it up. He won the junior national championship in July in Las Vegas where he beat out 50 top-ranked juniors from around the country. Sergio hopes to compete in the world junior championships in December to represent the United States in the event in Johannesburg, South Africa; he is looking for sponsors to cover the considerable travel expenses.

His father, Joe, a master pool player, taught Sergio the ways of the table. The younger Rivas began turning heads on the national level in the summer of 2011 when he finished third out of nearly 1,000 players, many of whom were highly ranked adults in the amateur open division of the prestigious Allen Hopkins tournament near Philadelphia. Two years later in the pro competition at that same event, Sergio had Dennis Hatch, the third-ranked player in America, on the ropes before Hatch rallied to win the match. "Iíve got my hands full with this kid," Hatch told spectators.

One of those watching that match was the legendary Efren Reyes from the Philippines who was transfixed by the teenager no one had heard of. "I hope he keeps playing," Reyes says. "Heíd be the Michael Jordan of the Philippines in our sport."

"The crowds were four-deep around the table," Joe Rivas said of his sonís battle with Hatch.

What sets Sergio apart is his extraordinary focus and maturity for someone his age. He watches hours of video of the top players until he can master their techniques. "I can watch something and be able to do it," he says.

He practices three to four hours every day and travels with his father to the top tournaments in the Midwest. "I put him against good players," Rivas says. "That toughens him up. You always gotta be good."

Sergioís older brother, Jose, who was a top-ranked competitor, also mentored Sergio. "My dad and Jose both taught me, but my style is more like my brotherís," Sergio says. "He could be one of the top guys now but he decided to get married and raise a family."

While Sergio plays like a true pool prodigy, he never acts like one. "I donít ever try to make it like that," he says. "Thereís always somebody better."

"He never gets a big head," his dad says. "And he does well in school. The focus and discipline from the game help him in the classroom. And thereís a lot of geometry in pool. Itís all about angles."

Sergio continues to rack íem up with quiet confidence. His goals are to win the top pro events, the U.S. Open 9-Ball Championship and the World Nine-ball Championship. "When Iím on my game, I should never make a mistake," he says.


This story ran in the November 2013 issue of: