DES MOINES — Nick Moore was approached by former Iowa City West teammate Dylan Carew in a tunnel exiting the Wells Fargo Arena floor.
Though neither recalls the exact words spoken during last year’s state tournament finals, Carew offered motivational words concerning Moore’s future, reminding the Trojans standout he would soon be experiencing what Don Bosco’s Bart Reiter did when he completed his quest to be the Iowa’s latest four-time state champion.
Now, top-ranked Moore attempts to become just the 19th four-time state champion in state history as the Iowa High School Athletic Association state wrestling tournament begins today at Wells Fargo Arena. Competition begins with the opening round of Class 2A tournament at 1 p.m. with 3A action set for 6 p.m.
Moore wasn’t caught up in the moment. After all, it wasn’t his moment and he had his third title to capture.
“I saw him after he won,” said Moore, who has signed to wrestle next year at the University of Iowa. “He looked pretty happy. It’s definitely something you strive to experience.”
Moore enters the tournament 44-0 at 160 pounds, including 35 pins, and is four wins away from Moore joining one of the most prestigious groups in state wrestling history. The first step is an opening round bout against Pleasant Valley’s Devin Johnson (30-9).
“It’s pretty much expected by a lot of people now,” Carew said. “Nick’s got a great opportunity to be in that elite club.”
The goal now has been reduced to its most basic form. Forget a fourth state championship, and the focus isn’t on earning possible gold. It’s conquering each foe one at a time.
“To be honest, you have to make it as simple as possible,” Moore said. “When I get there it’s who is stepping on the mat against me. That’s who I’m going after.”
So, don’t expect Moore to deviate from his normal routine in Des Moines. He’ll walk to Veterans Auditorium for weigh-ins, return to the hotel for some fruit or sandwich and drink something light. Then he’ll head to Wells Fargo Arena to warm-up with a hard drill, breaking a sweat and raising his heart rate. Moore said it doesn’t make sense to make changes to what has been successful.
The biggest change will be having the spotlight thrust upon him. Something he can handle, but live without.
“I don’t know how necessary it is to success,” Moore said. “That’s just the way you go about wrestling. It’s a little bit about the way you’re brought up. If it’s not going to directly help your performance then it’s not something you should be pursuing.”
Moore’s road to each of his title have been bumpy ones, especially the last two. Despite severe injuries to his shoulder, which was surgically repaired in the spring, and knee. West Coach Mark Reiland said most people couldn’t persevere the challenges Moore has faced in recent years.
“I look back at what he’s done the last two years,” said Reiland. “More than his skill set is his mental toughness and the way he can handle things and push him through that stuff.”
As a freshman, Moore claimed a 3-2 overtime win in the semifinals, edging a former state champion in Waverly-Shell Rock’s Mark Ballweg, who ended his career with two state titles. Not only did it catapult him toward his first title but it helped the Trojans overcome the Go-Hawks for the team title.
“It was huge for a number of reasons,” Reiland said. “One because of the team race, two because the winner was crowned champ, and that was the crowning moment of his freshman campaign.”
That year was the first of two when he won titles along side older brother, Nate, a four-time state finalist.
“The first year was pretty cool winning a state title with your brother,” Moore said. “At the same time, he expected to do it and if he expected to do it then so did I.”
As special as those were, Moore doesn’t have a rank to his crowns. Each of his experiences ended the same, so they share the similar worth.
“I know they’re all worth the same,” Moore said. “I know I’ve taken things from each and used it to my advantage to learn and grow.”
Moore’s prep career has been stellar. He owns a 175-1 career mark, including a 143-match win streak and 107 pins. He holds the school record for career winning percentage and is second in pins. Three wins and he’ll pass brother, Nate (175), and Mitch Mueller (177) for second all-time in wins by a West wrestler. He also became just the sixth Mississippi Valley Conference wrestler to win a fourth conference crown.
Reiland said feats pale in comparison to the person, who leads by setting a good example on and off the mat.
“The pleasure has been who he is, what he stands for and how he acts,” Reiland said. “He’s been a good teammate, a good leader and he’s done things a coach would want you to do. That means more.”
Moore couldn’t imagine what he might be like if he achieves the accomplishment. He did get a glimpse of what to expect if he finishes his career on top.
“Hopefully, he’ll go out with the exclamation mark he wants to put on his state tournament experience,” Reiland said.
4-TIME STATE CHAMPIONS
Bob Steenlage, Britt (1959-62)
Jeff Kerber, Emmetsburg (1976-79)
Scott Morningstar, Lisbon ((1977-80)
Joe Gibbons, Waterloo Columbus/Ames (1978-81)
Greg Randall, Mount Vernon (1979-82)
Mark Schwab, Osage (1982-85)
Dan Knight, Clinton (1984-87)
Shane Light, Lisbon (1987-90)
Jeff McGinness, Iowa City High (1990-1993)
Jason Keenan, Ogden (1992-95)
Eric Juergens, Maquoketa (1993-96)
Jesse Sundell, Ogden (1998-2001)
Mack Reiter, Don Bosco (2000-03)
C.J. Ettelson, Hudson (2000-03)
Dan LeClere, North Linn (2002-05)
Jay Borschel, Linn-Mar (2002-05)
T.J. Sebolt, Centerville (2003-06)
Bart Reiter, Don Bosco (2006-09)