The Mustang Nation is proud to recognize our athletic alumni. Since 2000 the Mustangs have sent athletes to play in multiple sports at over 140 different universities and in 25 states across the country from California to New York and from Michigan to Florida. With the drafting of baseball player Tyler Stephenson, by the Cincinnati Reds, and Reggie Pruitt, by the Toronto Blue Jays, the Mustangs are also represented in Major League Baseball. The Mustangs were also represented in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio by Track & Field athlete Daina Levy!
BASEBALL: Tyler Stephenson drafted 11th overall in the 2015 Draft!
Tyler is currently playing in the Reds minor league system for the Dayton Dragons (Single A) in Dayton, Ohio..
Reggie Pruitt selected in the 24th Round, signs with the Blue Jays!
Reggie Pruitt selected in the 24th Round, signs with the Blue Jays!
TRACK: Daina Levy competes in the Rio Olympics!
The 23-year-old Canadian, born of Jamaican parents, is the first Jamaican to qualify for the Hammer Throw at the Olympic Games. She is also the national record holder with 71.48m.
However, Levy’s Hammer Throw mark of 60.35m did not allow her to advance to the final of the event. Daina is the first former Mustang to make the Olympics!
De'Von Johnson & Terrell Singleton making waves at Kennesaw State.
De'Von Johnson & Terrell Singleton making waves at Kennesaw State.
WRESTLING: Rivera brothers continue to do well at the next level.
Justan Rivera was at a crossroads.The former Kennesaw Mountain wrestler, who recently completed his freshman season at Notre Dame College in Ohio, knew something was wrong with his right shoulder during an early-season tournament with the team.
During Christmas break, Rivera discovered he had a torn labrum in his right shoulder and, with his freshman season in jeopardy, he had to make a choice.
“I was really pumped to compete at the next level,” said Rivera, who won two national championships in Fargo, North Dakota, and captured four state, area and county titles at Kennesaw Mountain, “but then I get (to Notre Dame), and I get the shoulder injury. I was bummed out.”
Rivera, however, was not deterred.
The main reason he decided to pass on offers from other programs to attend Division II Notre Dame was for the opportunity to wrestle for the first time on the same team with his brother, Jonatan.
Jonatan Rivera won two state titles at Kennesaw Mountain and, like his younger brother, was a multipletime area and county champion. A 2011 graduate, Jonatan redshirted his freshman season at Notre Dame, which made the 2015-16 campaign his last with the Falcons.
“I could have sat out and redshirted, but it was my only opportunity to wrestle with my brother,” Justan said. “I had my family and my coaches encouraging me, and I was determined to get through the season.”
Justan’s decision paid off for the brothers, who concluded the season as Division II All-Americans following the NCAA championships earlier this month in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
Jonatan placed fourth at 157 pounds, while Justan was eighth at 174.
“Justan looks up to his brother,” said Roberto Rivera, the brothers’ father and their coach at Kennesaw Mountain. “That’s the big reason Justan went to Notre Dame. It was a tremendous weekend for our family to see them up there (in South Dakota). When they look back at this year, they’ll appreciate getting on the podium and having the chance to be on the same team for the rst time.”
The brothers’ road to All-America status wasn’t easy. Because of his shoulder injury, Justan eventually put more stress on his left shoulder, causing it to periodically dislocate throughout the season. He also dislocated the patella and tweaked the medial collateral ligament in his left knee during his second match at the NCAA championships.
“He looked like a mummy out there,” Roberto Rivera said.
Meanwhile, Jonatan, broke his right hand during regional qualifying two weeks before the national tournament, thus limiting his abilities.
“I lost in the second round at regionals and competed with the broken hand the rest of the way,” he said. “Battling back through was pretty tough. I pretty much wrestled with one hand, but I had already seen what my brother was going through with his shoulder and that motivated me. Plus, it was my last season.”
A 2014 national champion and three-time All-American, Jonatan was excited to have his brother by his side for the rst time. Justan was required to live on the suburban Cleveland campus as a freshman, while Jonatan moved off campus for the rst time. They did, however, room together during road trips and sometimes drilled together in the wrestling room.
It took a while for Justan to adjust to wrestling at the college level.
“It was real exciting to have him with me in the room,” Jonatan said. “It was fun and somewhat stressful, because I’m the older brother and he was a big-time recruit who was expecting to perform better than he did early on. It was tough for me to watch him struggle in tournaments with the injury.
“There was denitely a learning curve, because he was so dominant in high school and things weren’t as easy for him in college.
I’m so proud of him and for what he was able to do.
His decision to compete with the bad shoulder was a testament to his toughness.
“It was a great experience being there with him. We grew closer as brothers. We were able to talk about personal and school issues all the time.”
Justan expects to undergo surgery on his right shoulder Wednesday and is undecided on what he’ll do with the left one.
In the end, however, he believes it was all worth it.
“There are no good words to describe being on the same team with my brother,” Justan said.
“Win or lose, we were next to each other. I love and respect him and being able to wrestle with him for his last year was incredible.
“Through all the times we drilled together, he really helped sharpen my technique and taught me a lot. Without him, I probably wouldn’t have made it through the season.”By Carlton D. White / [email protected]
FOOTBALL: Jay Finch leaves his mark at Georgia Tech.
A three-year starter and one of the top centers in the ACC... named to the Rimington Trophy preseason watch in 2012 and 2013... an outstanding competitor... one of Tech's top performers in the weight room... played in 50 career games with 41 starts, including 31 consecutive starts... made the Dean's List.
2013 (senior): Played and started all 13 games... was on the preseason watch list for the Rimington Trophy... invited to play in the College All-Star Bowl... helped Georgia Tech rank in the top 10 nationally in third-down percentage, rushing offense and fewest sacks allowed.
2012 (junior): Started all 14 games... showed his durability by playing through nagging injuries... had shoulder surgery at the end of the season... earned honorable mention All-ACC honors by the writers and by the coaches... was named Most Outstanding Lineman of the Hyundai Sun Bowl after helping Tech beat USC, 21-7... was on the preseason watch list for the Rimington Trophy... helped Georgia Tech rank fourth nationally in rushing offense.
2011 (sophomore): Started 12 games... missed the Clemson game with an injury... helped Georgia Tech lead the ACC in rushing offense, total offense, scoring offense, fewest sacks allowed and third-down conversion percentage. 2010 (redshirt freshman): Played in 11 games and started three times at left guard... also served as a back-up to All-ACC center Sean Bedford... started vs. Virginia (Oct. 9), Miami (Nov. 13) and Duke (Nov. 20)... the Yellow Jackets rushed for an average of 368 yards in the three games that he started... helped pave the way for Tech leading the nation in rushing offense.
* 2013 College All-Star Bowl Invitee
* 2013 Rimington Trophy Watch List
* 2013 Preseason Fourth Team All-ACC (Phil Steele)
* 2012 Honorable Mention All-ACC (media)
* 2012 Honorable Mention All-ACC (coaches)
* 2012 Most Outstanding Lineman -- Hyundai Sun Bowl
* 2012 Third Team All-ACC (Phil Steele)
* 2012 Rimington Trophy Watch List
* 2012 Preseason Fourth Team All-ACC (Phil Steele)
WRESTLING: Rivera Claims National Title!
The No.1 Notre Dame College wrestling team claimed the 2014 NCAA Division II Wrestling Championships in emphatic fashion with four wrestlers claiming individual national titles. Kennesaw Mt. alumni Jonatan Rivera was one of those champions.
No. 5 Jonatan Rivera started the title run off for the Falcons at 157 pounds with a 5-2 decision victory against the previously unbeaten Cory Dauphin from Central Oklahoma.
SOFTBALL: Fenton leaves her mark at Alabama.
In honor of Alabama softball's 20th anniversary, rolltide.com will be catching up with our 20 former All-Americans in a series of feature interviews. Our 18th feature is with Jennifer Fenton (2009-12), a constant stolen base threat who earned All-America honors as a senior in 2012.
As one speedy All-American outfielder from Georgia named Brittany Rogers was entering her senior season for the Crimson Tide in 2009, another from the Peach State arrived right behind her in Jennifer Fenton. As a fixture at the top of the Tide order from 2009-12, Fenton, now Jennifer Maloney, became interested in Alabama from watching players like Rogers at the Women's College World Series.
"When I got to eighth or ninth grade and had to decide what I wanted to do with softball moving forward, I knew I wanted to play at the college level," Maloney said. "I started looking around at schools and I started watching the Women's College World Series every June on TV. Alabama was always there and I really liked watching them play. I thought they had a great passion for the game and I had heard great things about the school.
"In Georgia, I honestly didn't switch from slow pitch to fast pitch until I was in sixth grade. I started learning the game and by the time I really understood what was going on, I was a freshman in high school and I had a very good year. I was All-State, All-Region and Player of the Year. I thought then that there was a real possibility I could play in college."
Once Maloney began playing for a club team, she traveled to many tournaments across the country and college coaches started to take notice.
"I remember my sophomore year, one of my dad's friends met Coach [Patrick] Murphy at one of the Alabama softball games and he told Murphy about me," Maloney said. "Murphy ended up coming to watch me in Colorado and we kept in touch and he would email or call me back once he was able to. He invited me to watch Alabama play and that led to my unofficial visit my junior year when I decided I wanted to go to Alabama."
When weighing the options for a college softball program, Maloney
noticed the same things that many other of the Crimson Tide players see
right away with the team.
"What I really loved about Alabama was that their coaching staff was
very genuine," Maloney said. "They truly cared about each one of their
players and you could just tell by watching them that it was a true
family atmosphere. The players loved each other and they really wanted
to play for each other. It wasn't a `me-first' attitude, it was about
`what can I do to help the team'. On top of that, the team was very good
and had won the SEC a number of times, was highly ranked and had been
to the World Series."
As a freshman in 2009, Maloney appeared in 60 games including 24 starts in the outfield. A center fielder for the majority of her career, Maloney had a chance to learn from one of Alabama's best her freshman year playing behind senior All-American Brittany Rogers. Rogers was one of five seniors in the class of 2009 that was instrumental in setting the tone for Maloney and the freshmen.
"That class had amazing leaders and they all led in different ways,"
Maloney said. "That's what made them so special. As soon as my class
came on campus, they were available for us. They were willing to help us
with anything we needed. They really embraced us and wanted us to learn
everything they knew. I didn't play as much as I wanted to my freshman
year but I took that year as an opportunity to learn from Brittany
Rogers. She was an All-American outfielder and she knew the game and how
to play it correctly. I was soaking up as much as she would tell me.
From the very beginning at the first workout, they set the tone for what
was expected out of us. They had high expectations and it was our job
as underclassmen to help reach those team expectations."
As a sophomore in 2010, Maloney and the Tide won the SEC regular season and tournament titles with Maloney taking home SEC All-Tournament team honors. In 2011, she helped lead the team to its second-straight SEC regular season title and an appearance at the Women's College World Series. Having already accomplished those goals, Maloney and the 2012 seniors set their sights even higher.
"The thing that we really wanted for that year was to finish," Maloney said. "Every year we had come so close but we couldn't get over the hill. As a senior class, our goal was to do anything we could do to help the team. Yes, we were the seniors but it wasn't about us. We wanted it to be about the team and what we could all accomplish together, whether it's the freshmen, sophomores, juniors or seniors. We wanted it to be a complete team effort. It didn't matter if it was a freshman or senior that got the key hit, we just wanted it to be about the entire team.
Maloney was one of six seniors in 2012, along with Kendall Dawson, Olivia Gibson, Amanda Locke, Jazlyn Lunceford and Cassie Reilly-Boccia. Despite having a large group with diverse personalities, the class of 2012 was able to use their differences as an advantage.
"Each of us led very differently," Maloney said. "Cassie [Reilly-Boccia] was more outspoken, others weren't as vocal but led with their actions. We used our leadership abilities in different ways. I would lead in the outfield, Kendall [Dawson] would lead behind the plate, Cassie had the infield. We just tried to lead the way we knew best for the team. We each embraced our role. My job as the number two hitter was to move the runner over. Whether I got on base or not, my job was to move the runner and that's what I tried to do every time."
Blessed with great speed on the base paths, a sacrifice bunt attempt would often turn into a bunt single for Maloney. Once she got on first, her base-stealing skills usually meant that second base wasn't far behind. Maloney ended her career with a school-record .964 stolen base percentage, swiping 133 in 138 attempts.
"Baserunning was always my thing," Maloney said. "I would always steal a lot. Once I got to Alabama, I fine-tuned my form and got a little faster. Murphy allowed the `green-light girls' on the team to always steal on the first or second pitch unless there was a specific situation he didn't want us to. Me, [Kayla] Braud and Jaz were allowed to steal any time on the first or second pitch. I took pride in baserunning. It wasn't something that I just took for granted."
A nondescript stolen base on March 16, 2010 in game one of a doubleheader at Kentucky would end up as the start of an incredible streak for Maloney. She would go on to steal 77-consecutive bases without being caught, setting a new NCAA record. She broke the record on April 6, 2012 against LSU and saw it end the next day against the Tigers as she was thrown out in the first inning. It was the first time she was caught stealing since March 13 of her sophomore year.
"I honestly had no idea that there was a streak or a record or anything like that," Maloney said. "I didn't know anything until the night I broke it and they announced it on the intercom. Our SID staff tried to keep it away from me so I didn't think about it as much. Stealing bases was just something I took pride in. I wanted to get in scoring position so that my teammates could hit me in. Speed gets things done and causes chaos on the infield."
The streak was one of many accolades Fenton earned her senior year. She was named All-SEC, SEC All-Tournament Team, NFCA All-South Region and NFCA First Team All-America. Her biggest accomplishment would come at the end of the year with a national title and a spot on the Women's College World Series All-Tournament team.
"I don't remember a lot of the little plays," Maloney said. "The big thing I remember is our reaction after losing the first game. We weren't going to let that happen again. We don't get beat twice. We needed to fight back and win it because we knew we could do it. On the bus rides to the games, we watched some really good motivational videos that really pumped us up and got us ready for the game.
"When the rain hit in game three I remember that was a huge turning point in the game for us. We were losing at that point and we were just trying to find some way to get an advantage. We were making adjustments at the plate before that but once the rain hit, our team decided that we weren't going to sit in the dugout. We wanted to stay pumped up as a team because that was what we needed. We had been through all kinds of rain and cold and adversity throughout that year that, when I look back at those moments, completely prepared us for that three-game series. We were on the field and cheering with the fans. I remember looking over and seeing Oklahoma in the dugout with solemn faces and thinking `this could be big'. We stuck together as a team and it went from there. We kept getting little hits, they would make mistakes and we would score."
Off the field, Maloney made academics a priority. She was a three-time SEC Honor Roll award winner and was named the SEC Softball Scholar-Athlete of the Year in 2012.
"Academics are very important because most girls won't leave and play pro once they're done with college softball," Maloney said. "Because I was student teaching my senior year, I was working out at 5 a.m. and then I would have to go teach at an elementary school from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., go to practice and then stay extra after practice to do extra because I missed some stuff. It was very challenging. I had to learn a lot of time management and put in a lot of extra hours but it was completely worth it."
Like many former players, Maloney finds herself now teaching the same lessons that were given to her during her time at Alabama.
"The biggest one that sticks out in my mind was `the sooner you realize it isn't all about you, the better off you'll be'," Maloney said. "That stuck with me and, being the number two batter, it was particularly important for me to realize that. I coach high school softball now and that's something that I try and teach my players. It's not about the individual but about us as a team fighting together. I got a head coaching job right out of college and we've gone from only winning a few games when I started to now being second in the region. The girls have really embraced that saying and they have come together as a team. I teach elementary school and think of all the lessons that I learned when I'm trying to give them life lessons."Maloney currently resides in Kennesaw, Ga., as a third grade teacher at Abney Elementary School and a softball coach for North Paulding High School. She married her husband Brian in the summer of 2015.