JCC's Keegan Moore hungers to excel
JACKSON -- He is an excellent football player, but his name has been irrevocably identified with wrestling. It's what he's known for, both within Minnesota and without. Keegan Moore is a two-time state high school wrestling champion with one more...
JACKSON - He is an excellent football player, but his name has been irrevocably identified with wrestling. It’s what he’s known for, both within Minnesota and without.
Keegan Moore is a two-time state high school wrestling champion with one more season still to go, and he has been called by Takedown Wrestling “one of the most successful wrestlers in the country in his age group.” He is, however, by his own admission, just a face in the crowd as a football player. So you may be surprised to know that his favorite sport is …
Two older brothers, Cooper and Paden, earned two and one state wrestling championships, respectably, at Jackson County Central High School before Keegan began winning his own. Sitting on bleacher seats shortly before football practice got under way this week at JCC, Keegan smiled and recalled that, originally, wrestling for the Moores was intended to be an activity “to get us prepared for football.”
Keegan smiled. “I love the fast speed of the game, in football. I love to hit people.”
He recalls an uncle who played football at Oklahoma. His father, Jay, coached Division II football for a while. Football, like wrestling, is in his blood.
Moore’s involvement with the Huskies this fall has already been one for the books. In Week Three, the hard-charging tailback set the school’s career touchdown record. Last Friday, in Week Five, he added the career rushing record to his growing list of accomplishments. JCC (3-2) has won its last three games by scores of 57-7, 55-25 and 58-21, and in those three games Moore has carried 47 times for 472 yards and eight touchdowns. Despite missing the first game of the season, he has 613 yards rushing to show for his season thus far.
Never one to rest on his laurels, Moore says, “I want to break the all-time rushing record in a season, and I want to break the touchdown record in a single season, and those are my goals now.”
With long, flowing wavy auburn hair, Keegan Moore has a carefree, wild air about him. But he’s a grounded young man. His faith in God walks with him, helping to keep his athletic achievements in perspective. Parents Jay and Rhonda Moore, says Keegan, “taught us that anything is possible through Christ.”
He said he began to understand as a ninth-grader what faith can do. “Life is truly hard, and it’s just easier to go through that with Christ,” he said this week.
Right now, the hardest thing for Keegan Moore might be choosing a college. He has taken five official visits, and appears to have boiled down his choices to Purdue, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Nebraska and the University of Northern Iowa. Fully aware that he’s more valuable to college recruiters as a wrestler than as a football player (“there’s a thousand guys like me” in football, he admits), Moore is determined to go the wrestling route at the next level.
But, he adds, “Football is still in the back of my mind.” Meaning: if the opportunity for football presents itself down the road, he’s keeping that option open.
Cudos from coaches
His high school football coach, Tom Schuller, lauds Moore for his natural abilities as well as his work ethic.
“Tremendous amount of athletic talent. Incredible balance, and you can see that on the wrestling mat as well as on the football field,” Schuller said. “Very seldom goes down with the first tackle.”
Moore also has great hands, Schuller continued, and he works hard in the weight room.
Until his senior year, Moore toiled as a linebacker on defense. But this year, Schuller moved him to a defensive end spot so he could be closer to the line of scrimmage. Moore has always shown a knack for rushing the passer; being closer to the quarterback on the snap can only increase his chances of getting there.
Moore will also line up at fullback occasionally on offense.
When asked to assess himself as a football player, Moore explains, “I can see lanes that normal running backs can’t see … I’ve got real good feet. I’ve got real good quickness, and I got that from wrestling. I can pack a punch, I can hit the hole hard.”
His wrestling coach, Randy Baker, remembers all three Moore brothers from their time with him in the wrestling room. Sadly, there are no other Moore brothers after Keegan.
“They’re real competitive, they work very hard. They’re strong, physical kids,” Baker said. “A blue-collar family.”
Keegan’s last state high school championship (he was undefeated) was won at 182 pounds. Later, in the spring, he won a national championship in the Folkstyle Nationals in Cedar Falls, Iowa. After winning his first state mat title as a sophomore, he became the youngest Triple Crown winner in Minnesota history, capturing the folkstyle, freestyle and Greco-Roman crowns in the USA Wrestling post-season tournaments.
“He’s very competitive,” Baker said, recalling Keegan’s attitude at practice sessions. “He doesn’t like to get taken down or have anyone score on him in the room. He has awfully good balance and speed. He’s very fast. He’s got very good hips on him - the football players know that about him.”
The next step
Baker believes Moore has everything that it takes, physically, to be a success at the next level. But to become the best Division I wrestler he can be, he’ll need to work harder on his academics.
Moore agrees, and asserts that he’s already putting more emphasis on his studies. As goal-oriented as he is, it’s hard to bet against him.
“My brothers have always been there to push me,” he relates.
When he was 6 or 7 years old, Keegan remembers, he didn’t like wrestling. He only continued wrestling so that his brothers wouldn’t give him a hard time. By the time he was 10, he enjoyed wrestling and began to pursue his varied personal goals.
He considers his biggest wrestling obstacles to be maintaining his diet. Cutting weight has been hard for him at times, he admits. He calls himself a procrastinator.
At the same time, he remembers objectives that got away from him. He didn’t qualify for the Cadet World team this year, and he says he is still frustrated by that result. He will attempt to make the Junior World team next summer.
But first … football.