Setting a mat standard
Granite Hills heavyweight placed third at state championships
Story by MARK A. PEINADO, Photo by JAMES QUIGG/Daily Press Staff
When Gabe Moore started the 2004-05 wrestling season, he was tabbed as the No. 1 heavyweight in the state of California. And for three months, he was.
Moore was an unstoppable force. He took first at El Dorado, North Torrance, Rio Mesa and the Five Counties Invitational, and was the most valuable wrestler at El Dorado and North Torrance. Moore won the Desert Sky League, was CIF-Southern Section Central Division champion and Masters champion.
It was as if the Granite Hills senior was destined for the state heavyweight title. But in his quarterfinal match in Bakersfield at the state championships, it all came crashing down. Moore wrestled his worst match of the season and was pinned by Ponderosa's John Kaho.
He suffered his first defeat of the season. The disappointment and frustration showed in Moore's demeanor following the match. He wasn't about to discuss the loss and slowly made his way out of Rabobank Arena.
For Moore, it was the end of a dream season and it could have been made even worse with a defeat the next morning. But his coaches, his father and Moore himself didn't allow him to wallow in the anguish of the loss. He beat one of his best friends to make the placing matches and then rolled to a third-place state finish, the best in Granite Hills history and the highest for a High Desert wrestler since Barstow's Lionel Apineru won the state title in 2001.
His accomplishments, which include having a nearly unblemished record, make Moore the 2005 Daily Press Wrestler of the Year.
"It was pretty disappointing (not winning a state title), "Moore said. "(Kaho) wrestled better that day. Those two guys in the finals, I know I could have beaten both of them any other day.
"(Granite Hills) had a real good season. But my brother and I, we set the standard for everybody."
On the mat, it was mostly a cakewalk for Moore. But off it, there was the uncertainty during the midseason of whether he'd even wrestle again, let alone place third at the state championships.
In late January, the senior was involved in a fight on campus. Moore didn't start the fracas but still was suspended and in line for expulsion for his actions. It was looking like the season that once held so much promise was about to go up in flames.
The DSL Finals were on the horizon and Moore had yet to be reinstated in school. He needed to compete in that tournament if he was to have any shot at reaching state. The Apple Valley Unified School District cleared Moore to wrestle that week and a few days after DSL Finals, he was absolved of the whole incident and allowed to return to school.
But upon his return, Moore was greeted in some venues with unflattering words from spectators.
"People, they didn't know what was going on or what really happened so I wasn't sweating that, "Moore said. "I wish it never happened. Sometimes I think about how (this year) might not have happened but then I just look at the bright side, it did."
Once he was back on the mat, the Moore freight train got back on the rails and didn't let up until the quarterfinals of the state championships. That's when Kaho derailed the 255-pound senior.
Instead of letting the match play out on points, Moore was aggressive in going for his moves. Kaho was patient and took advantage of Moore's mistakes to win the match.
Moore came back to finish third, two places higher than his brother Gary. Gary Moore was fifth at the 2003 state championships at 125 pounds.
Moore's future is still in doubt. He's had inquiries from San Jose State and San Francisco State along with a number of other schools. He's yet to make a decision, but a college education is a definite, Gary Moore Sr. said.
"Michelle and I feel real proud, "Gary Moore Sr., Gabe's father, said. "Gary was proud of his brother in the way he took third. I think he's done well. You can't always be perfect. He had a good season. This is only the beginning for Gabriel."