CEDAR FALLS — Northern Iowa senior wrestler Keegan Moore is capturing his potential this season after navigating multiple obstacles throughout his career.
The Jackson, Minn., native began his college career at Oklahoma State, but transferred after two seasons to UNI in search of a better environment for himself, following his brothers Cooper and Paden — former and current UNI wrestlers — to Cedar Falls to join the program.
Shortly after his arrival in Cedar Falls though, Moore tore an elbow ligament in practice and missed his redshirt sophomore season after having Tommy John surgery.
Eager to finally make his UNI debut last season, he encountered multiple back injuries that kept him out of the first half of the season. Then, once his back began to heal, he tore a ligament in his foot that required surgery and forced him to miss the remainder of the season.
Moore’s ascension into Coach Doug Schwab’s lineup this season as a senior goes beyond injuries, though.
Like many college students he struggled with decision-making. When he was away from the routine and rigors of being a part of a wrestling team he says he let himself down.
“(When you) first come to college people can really venture out (socially),” Moore said. “Shutting that off and really dialing down and focusing on wrestling (was important).”
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Moore described the moment he’ll never forget when he knew he had to make changes on and off the mat if he was ever going to reach his potential.
“I remember being down after I had surgery on my foot. You kind of bulk up not being able to run or do anything and I remember sitting there and knowing that next time I’m going to train it’s going to be absolutely all-in,” Moore said. “Next time when I have this opportunity it’s going to be absolutely 100 percent in, in all categories of my life. With all the injuries I’ve dealt with, too, just knowing that every opportunity is special and I want to make the most of every opportunity.”
Now healthy, maturing and bettering himself in all facets of life, Moore’s teammates and coaches have taken notice.
“If you’re not making good choices outside of the (wrestling) room it bleeds into your wrestling. It bleeds into everything,” Schwab said. “This spring and summer he really made a choice that I’m going to do things well. I’m going to live really well. I’m going to, in a way, forgive myself and continue to learn and build myself up and feed myself in that way.”
The early results are encouraging. Moore won both his 184-pound matches against South Dakota State and North Dakota State last weekend, and won by major decision (18-7) against SDSU’s Nick Casperson.
“Most of the victories these guys have, they’re not seen. They’re not out in the public,” Schwab said. “A lot of these victories that Keegan’s had, they’ve been inside. They’ve been him. Those, to me as a coach, are the most meaningful ones.”
Moore and the Panthers return to the mat Sunday at Hilton Coliseum in Ames where they’ll face Missouri.