Is it possible to finish runner-up for the Hodge Trophy, finish third in the nation freshman year, second in the nation junior year, win the Big Ten Championship your senior year and come away without a National Championship to close out your wrestling career?
Thanks to COVID-19 and an unprecedented line in the sand, it sure is.
Ohio State’s Kollin Moore was “simply” a Kyle Conel, a Brett Pfarr and a Bo Nickal away from NCAA gold going into his senior season, but Moore held his ground with some of the most memorable names in the sport in his first three years on the mat.
His freshman year, he shared the podium with a face on Mizzou’s wrestling Mt. Rushmore, J’Den Cox, and a face on Penn State’s wrestling Mt. Rushmore, Bo Nickal, in his junior year, two three-time National champions that scoring points on alone wasn’t exactly an easy ask.
Heading into Moore’s senior year it was safe to say few wrestlers in the weight class were more battle-tested and primed for Nationals quite like Moore. There wasn’t even really a dream scenario matchup in the division. Sure, there was a number two-ranked wrestler going into the National Championship, but there was no immediately visible kryptonite for Moore.
“I know Noah Adams was the number two-ranked kid in the country,” Moore said. “We hadn’t wrestled up to that point, but besides that I had wrestled most people in that bracket multiple times and he was probably the only one I hadn’t. He was also undefeated that year, the number two seed. I guess he was probably the one I was looking forward to wrestling the most just to see, you know, what I could do and how that match was going to go.”
Just as the opportunity was about to arise, the door was slammed shut.
The COVID-19 pandemic shut down the National Championship and seniors waved goodbye to their final crack at a title.
With no warning or extra year of eligibility thanks to a “worldwide pandemic clause,” an ocean was placed right in Moore’s path to closing out his career as a champion.
“Coach Ryan asked, ‘Do we want to fight this?’ Moore recalled. “I said, no. Not just because I was ready to move on and the NCAA seemed pretty sure they weren’t going to give any eligibility back. I didn’t think that was an option moving forward.”
Moore was disappointed but saw the greener pastures ahead, as well. The senior circuit would be kind to the Buckeye who could now, finally, get paid for dominating in the sport he loves. Little did he know the NCAA would enact the NIL agreements to wrestlers the following year.
Heartbreak turned to irritation and Moore was left with no other option than to throw his hands up and say, “of course it worked out this way.”
“Now guys can get paid to wrestle in college on top of that all,” Moore said. “Everything that kind of happened that year after had made it a little more salty, but it’s not anything that keeps me up at night still.”
Moore has largely moved on from having his last crack at the NCAA title taken from him. The curse of 20/20 has made what was an understandable decision at the time more frustrating over time, but there’s plenty of money to be made in the senior circuit. Moore wasn’t able to benefit from a lot of the other things that he would have liked to but, at the time, it just made too much sense.
“My frustration grew as all that stuff came out and, at the time, I kind of understood because it was very early on and we didn’t know much about COVID,” Moore said. “We didn’t know how deadly it was or anything like that, so I wasn’t too upset with them at the decision. I mean, obviously I was upset, but it was more sadness than anger at the time with the decision to cancel it. Hindsight is 20/20 - we probably could’ve had it without fans, it would’ve been fine, but yeah, the way they kind of played everything out after definitely got me frustrated.”
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