Tuesday, March 4, 2008


Moore has untouchable season



By Andy Hamilton
Iowa City Press-Citizen


West High's Nate Moore is the Press-Citizen's first high school wrestler of the year. Press-Citizen / Dan Williamson


Wrestling Athlete of the Year Runner-up
? Derek St. John, West High: St. John would be the most valuable wrestler on almost any other high school team in the country. Like Moore, he went 50-0. Even better, he allowed just two takedowns this season. The rest of the points he surrendered came on escapes. And these statistics didn't come against an ordinary high school schedule.
St. John not only won his second state championship this season, he pounded three-time Missouri state champ Dylan Joiner, he thumped two-time Minnesota state champion Torey Stewart, and he established himself as one of the top wrestlers in the country at 145 pounds.


Honorable mentions
? Nick Moore, West High: The sophomore is halfway to joining the exclusive club of four-time state high school champions. Like his older brother, Nate, and St. John, he went 50-0 for the Trojans. He capped the season with a major-decision win against second-ranked Alec Hoffman of Davenport North in the 140-pound state finals.
? Grant Gambrall, West High: The Iowa recruit capped his senior season with his second 171-pound state title, pinning Council Bluffs Lewis Central's Justin Rau in the finals. He finished the year with a 47-1 record and didn't lose to an Iowan during his final two high school seasons.
? Holden Blythe, Williamsburg: Blythe became the first Williamsburg state champion in 19 years when he pinned Clear Lake's Patrick Kolker to win the 215-pound state title in Class 2A to complete a 45-1 season as a senior.
? James Ferentz, City High: Ferentz might have been an undefeated state champion in another year or another state. Nevertheless, the City senior went 39-2 and reached the state finals. Both of his losses came against Waverly-Shell Rock's Eric Thompson, the top-ranked heavyweight in the country.
? Tomas Lira, West Liberty: Lira was one of the area's feel-good stories of the state meet, beating three ranked opponents on his way to a runner-up finish at 189 in Class 2A during his first trip to the tournament. He finished the year with a 43-5 record.
? Dylan Carew, West High: Carew went 46-5 on his way to a third state tournament medal. Three of his losses came against Iowa recruit Matt McDonough of Linn-Mar, including a state semifinal loss. Carew pinned both of his consolation opponents on his way to third at 130 in 3A.
? Jordan Westfall, Highland: Westfall ended his career with four state medals and a 172-12 record, losing only four times outside of the state meet. He placed third at 130 in Class 1A as a senior, ending the year 45-2.
? Austin Blythe, Williamsburg: Blythe joined his older brother in the state finals, but came up one victory short of becoming the first freshman heavyweight champion in state history. He posted a 38-6 record on the season.



There were no backflips, fist pumps or ceremonious leaps into the arms of his coach.

Nate Moore nonchalantly pulled off his ankle bands, shook his opponent's hand and acted as if he had just won a JV invitational tournament.

This was how the West High senior celebrated his second state championship this year.

Maybe Moore's reaction -- or lack thereof -- was the product of expectation and the responsibility of wearing the country's No. 1 ranking at 125 pounds. Maybe it was the result of already having won bigger tournaments nationally or his anticipation of winning bigger events in the future. Maybe it was Moore even-tempered disposition.

Or maybe he was preoccupied with a thought running through the back of his mind.

"After I won, I was thinking about how I was two matches away from being a four-time state champ and three matches away from being a four-time undefeated state champ," Moore said. "That kind of sucks, but you've got to get past that and come back to the reality that you lose the matches, and it was your own fault."

Moore didn't lose often during his time with the Trojans. He finished his career with a 175-3 record and went 50-0 as a senior -- reasons why the Iowa recruit has been named the Press-Citizen's first high school wrestler of the year.

"It's tough to look at his season without looking at his total body of work and what he's done as a wrestler at West High," West coach Mark Reiland said. "Obviously, his season, statistically, (is something that) has never been done at West High. He finished with 39 falls. He finished with 300-some (team) points. He set the (school) record for team points, he set the season record for falls, him, Derek (St. John) and (younger brother) Nick (Moore) all had 50 wins, which is the most a West High kid has ever had in a season. Obviously, his numbers are pretty remarkable."

Moore's only high school losses came against future Division I wrestlers. Fellow Iowa recruit Mark Ballweg of Waverly-Shell Rock scored a reversal in the final seconds to beat Moore in the 103-pound finals in 2005. Oklahoma freshman John Starzyk, then of Providence Catholic High School in Providence, Ill., beat Moore in the finals of an Illinois tournament in 2006 and Old Dominion freshman James Nicholson, then a senior at Des Moines Roosevelt, beat Moore later that year for the 119-pound state championship.

"I'm not sure the best kid won those matches," Reiland said. "He was certainly capable of winning those matches and at any other time he probably would have. The first one was kind of a fluke deal, and it haunted him a year later.

"Things very well could have turned out different, but he is what he is because of what he's went through. He's always been motivated, and maybe that's something that helped him stay motivated."

Moore hasn't lost since. He won his final 102 matches for the Trojans, and most were one-sided.

"I'd like to think he's one of the best we've seen (come through Iowa in recent years)," Reiland said. "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I feel pretty partial to it, just because I've had him for the four years and virtually every match I've been in that corner. Obviously, what he's done, his body of work for four years is remarkable."

So are his skills.

He routinely overwhelmed opponents with strength and skill. He beat them with brawn and finesse, using uncanny power for a wrestler his size to move his opponents out of position and then chaining several moves together to finish them off.

Moore's vast offensive arsenal enabled him to rack up 12 points in the first two minutes of his state championship match against Casey Strub before he eventually pinned the Indianola junior midway through the second period.

Nobody lasted a full match against Moore during the state tournament this season and hardly any survived the entire six minutes against him as a senior, even though many tried all sorts of tactics in an attempt to go the distance.

"That was the little part that was getting annoying," Moore said. "They weren't really trying to win, they were just kind of trying to keep the match close and they weren't really wrestling at all."

Make no mistake, Moore didn't get bored as a senior. The lack of challenges didn't create a monotonous season.

"I was having fun pounding people," he said. "I'm sure in the years to come that it's not going to happen and I'm going to have to work for my wins, but I was having fun."

Runner-up -- Derek St. John, West High

St. John would be the most valuable wrestler on almost any other high school team in the country. Like Moore, he went 50-0. Even better, he allowed just two takedowns this season. The rest of the points he surrendered came on escapes. And these statistics didn't come against an ordinary high school schedule.

St. John not only won his second state championship this season, he pounded three-time Missouri state champ Dylan Joiner, he thumped two-time Minnesota state champion Torey Stewart, and he established himself as one of the top wrestlers in the country at 145 pounds.

Honorable mention --

Nick Moore, West High -- The sophomore is halfway to joining the exclusive club of four-time state high school champions. Like his older brother, Nate, and St. John, he went 50-0 for the Trojans. He capped the season with a major-decision win against second-ranked Alec Hoffman of Davenport North in the 140-pound state finals.

Grant Gambrall, West High -- The Iowa recruit capped his senior season with his second 171-pound state title, pinning Council Bluffs Lewis Central's Justin Rau in the finals. He finished the year with a 47-1 record and didn't lose to an Iowan during his final two high school seasons.

Holden Blythe, Williamsburg -- Blythe became the first Williamsburg state champion in 19 years when he pinned Clear Lake's Patrick Kolker to win the 215-pound state title in Class 2A to complete a 45-1 season as a senior.

James Ferentz, City High -- Ferentz might have been an undefeated state champion in another year or another state. Nevertheless, the City senior went 39-2 and reached the state finals. Both of his losses came against Waverly-Shell Rock's Eric Thompson, the top-ranked heavyweight in the country.

Tomas Lira, West Liberty -- Lira was one of the area's feel-good stories of the state meet, beating three ranked opponents on his way to a runner-up finish at 189 in Class 2A during his first trip to the tournament. He finished the year with a 43-5 record.

Dylan Carew, West High -- Carew went 46-5 on his way to a third state tournament medal. Three of his losses came against Iowa recruit Matt McDonough of Linn-Mar, including a state semifinal loss. Carew pinned both of his consolation opponents on his way to third at 130 in 3A.

Jordan Westfall, Highland -- Westfall ended his career with four state medals and a 172-12 record, losing only four times outside of the state meet. He placed third at 130 in Class 1A as a senior, ending the year 45-2.

Austin Blythe, Williamsburg -- Blythe joined his older brother in the state finals, but came up one victory short of becoming the first freshman heavyweight champion in state history. He posted a 38-6 record on the season.


Reach Andy Hamilton at 339-7368 or ahamilton@press-citizen.com.