Moreno puts regular season behind, eyes NCAA tournament


Gabe Moreno power slams his opponent at 141 pounds. Iowa State defeated Midland on Friday, Nov. 15, at Hilton Coliseum 38-3.

Beau Berkley

For all 330 participants at this year’s NCAA wrestling tournament, the regular season is in the books and all of their records are, in theory, 0-0. Nobody knows this as well as ISU wrestler Gabe Moreno.

The redshirt freshman’s 2013-14 campaign has been a tumultuous one, filled with several highs and lows. In November, Moreno finished second at the Harold Nichols Open and in December took home a seventh place finish at the Cliff Keen Invitational.

On Jan. 2 at the Southern Scuffle, Moreno prevailed against All-American Ugi Khishignya of The Citadel. Moreno and Khishignya ended in a 4-4 stalemate, but Moreno won the match with 1:49 of riding time, giving him a point and the victory.

Moreno’s win against Khishignya would be his last win for two months.

After the Southern Scuffle, Moreno found immense struggles on the mat, losing ten matches in a row, including three major decisions and three pins, which began to add up in the bonus point columns for opposing teams.

After Moreno went 0-3 at the NWCA Nationals, ISU coach Kevin Jackson said the poor performance was in part due to a “lack of confidence”. At the Big 12 tournament where Moreno was slated as the fourth seed against the No. 1 seed Collin Johnston of West Virginia, that confidence came roaring back.

Down 4-3 in the second period, Moreno turned the tides when he took Johnston down at the edge of the mat, right in front of Jackson, and began to score back points. As Moreno was getting the better of Johnston on the mat, Jackson erupted out of his seat, crouching towards Moreno and giving directions.

“[Jackson] was very adamant that he did not want me to let go,” Moreno said.

The second period finished with Moreno on top with an 8-4 lead after the five-point move. In the third, Moreno rode Johnston to win the match and a spot at the NCAA tournament.

After losing 10-straight matches, Moreno was able to perform his best at the best time.

“It came at the perfect time and that’s what we’ve been training for, not to say that the wrestling season doesn’t count or doesn’t matter but the most important time of the season is the conference and nationals, so I went in with the mindset that I’m 0-0 and what happened in the past doesn’t matter,” Moreno said.

Kyven Gadson, one of two team captains and the No. 1 ranked wrestler at 197 pounds, said it was good to see Moreno put the past behind and succeed.

“[Gabe] hadn’t won since Jan. 2 and for him to just turn that switch and recognize that this is a new part of the season was big and I was happy for him,” Gadson said.

The NCAA tournament will be special for Moreno in more ways than one. His brother, Michael Moreno, will be competing at 165 pounds.

Since they were kids, the brothers had always dreamt of the day they would wrestle together at the NCAA tournament, wearing cardinal and gold singlets. That day is finally here.

“Just dreaming about wrestling in the national tournament — me and him as Iowa State Cyclones — pretty much our entire lives and now we’re going to be doing it together, it’s a pretty surreal feeling,” Moreno said.