One final opponent stood between Matt Moore and an undefeated season Saturday in Loganville.
As it turned out, this opponent didn’t stand much of a chance, but then again no one else did this season against the Mat Wildcat standout. Moore capped his undefeated season with a state championship at 220 lbs., pinning Arius Ofum of Rome High School in the first period of the championship match.
Moore finishes his high school career with two state championship medals (he also won as a sophomore) and a state runner-up showing as a junior. Most of his victories this season were by pin, with the most being in the first period of matches. Just what was going through Moore’s mind as he prepared for that final match?
“I went in thinking this is the big stage for high school wrestling,” Moore said. “I knew I had to stay calm no matter what. I wanted to just go out and wrestle the way I wrestle. I wasn’t necessarily looking for a quick pin, but I was going to take it if I could.”
“In my opinion, he wrestled as perfect a weekend as one could wrestle,” said AHS coach Graham Burns. “He just flipped the switch. I don’t think anyone had a chance against him.”
Saturday’s state championship capped a stellar high school career for Moore, who will continue wrestling for the University of North Carolina. He wrestled to perfection as a senior going 52-0 on his way to winning another state championship for 2013-2014.
What approach did his coach take with such a superior athlete?
“You just basically turn him loose,” Burns said. “With him, it’s more management than coaching. You make sure he’s in the right mind set and that he’s healthy.”
Jim Stoudenmire coached Moore for three years at AHS and was also impressed with how dominant he was during the state finals.
“It’s not as easy as he makes it look,” said Stoudenmire, now the coach at Winder-Barrow High School. “There is no question, he’s something special. He is an amazing kid and wrestler.”
While Moore is typically impressive each time he steps on the mat, Stoudenmire said the way he won the final match is what stands out to him.
“There’s no other way to describe it than he dismantled him,” Stoudenmire said. “He has such incredible ability and is so smart. He can direct which way a match goes. If he’s better on his feet then he will beat you on his feet. If he can pound you, he will get you on the mat and at that point you can forget it. He will wrestle the type of match that makes him the most dominant. It’s something that’s not as easy when you are in the heat of battle.”
Both coaches believe Moore will do well at the next level due to his work ethic and desire to always be the best. Both said Moore will face tougher competition in college, but the AHS senior already competes in club tournaments across the country.
“His understanding of how to win a match is something most don’t ever develop,” Stoudenmire said. “He works at it all the time. He’ll be training all summer. Winning state Saturday was just one more honor along the way for him.”
Stoudenmire said wrestlers who take the next step in college, are often different than other high school standouts.
“They already are mentally prepared in many ways,” the coach said. “Matt has worked so hard that he is not going to let anything stop him from being the best. He is really already wrestling at the collegiate level with some of the tournaments he goes to outside of his high school matches.”
Moore pinned all of his opponents Friday and Saturday except his semi-final matchup. He still won that match by technical fall.
“He wouldn’t go on his back,” Moore said. “In that match, I relied on my technique.”
The standout competitor is now coming to grasp with the fact his high school wrestling career is over.
“My dad and I talked about it,” Moore said. “We both knew it would be my last (high school) match Saturday. My dad told me I had wrestled in high school for four years and to go out there and wrestle my last opponent the way I thought would be best.”
Moore will begin the next chapter in late summer when he begins school at North Carolina. For now he will enjoy his final weeks of high school.
“I am glad I spent my four years in high school at the same place and in the same county,” Moore said. “It will be a transition going to North Carolina. I want to thank everyone who has supported me. The community has meant a great deal to me. From reading a post on Facebook, to receiving words of encouragement, the support has meant a lot. I hope I can show people if you work hard you see where it can get you. It’s been a great journey.”
The positive press and recognition generated by Moore is something which benefits his team, school and community.
“He’s a program builder,” Stoudenmire said. “Young kids see his picture in the paper and think maybe they want to give wrestling a try. He probably doesn’t even realize just how much he has meant to Apalachee wrestling, Apalachee High School and the community in general. He has been a great ambassador in the way he conducts himself.”
Overall, the Mat Wildcats were 13th at state as a team.
“The Apalachee athletic department appreciates how Matt has represented our school,” said athletic director Ralph Neely. “His parents have raised a respectful, conscientious young man. Matt has achieved the academic success to be admitted to one of the top five public universities in America, according to the US News and World Report. Additionally, he has had the athletic success to earn a spot on a nationally-ranked college wrestling team and the social success to be loved by the student body. If you are looking for what a student-athlete should look like, Matt Moore would be the perfect example.”