OKLAHOMA CITY – Moza Fay continues to pursue his Olympic wrestling dreams, and has the added privilege of serving his country at the same time.
The former Anamosa prep and Northern Iowa wrestler (2005-09), currently a member of USA Wrestling, is in Oklahoma City this week and competed in a freestyle exhibition match against India on Thursday.
"It felt really good, very welcoming," Fay said after defeating Amit Kumar Dhankhhar in an 11-2 decision at the Cox Convention Center as part of the NCAA Fan Festival between sessions of the Division I wrestling championships.
"Got that NCAA fan base to watch freestyle, so that felt good. The crowd wanted to see us win out there."
Fay dropped down a weight class to 154 and made the personal choice to follow the path of his brother, a veteran, and join the Army. Fay was recruited into the Army World Class Athlete Program which supports soldiers for participation on the U.S. Olympic team.
"It's an honor to serve my country," said Fay, who currently trains in Colorado Springs (Colo.). "As well as serve on the mat for the United States. To me it's a big win-win."
The last two-time All American for UNI, who placed fifth at 165 during the 2008 nationals, is excited about the resurgent UNI wrestling program and will cheer on the Panthers from the stands the remainder of the week.
"I'm going to be glued to that place," Fay said. "UNI has become a major threat in Division I wrestling, and nothing makes me prouder than to see them win."
Former Iowa State national champion Jon Reader (2011, 174) also competed, recording a 10-0 tech. fall victory in less than a minute over Pawan Kumar at 189.
The United States won the dual, 6-0.
ISU’s Moreno wins NCAA debut
Iowa State’s Gabe Moreno might be considered a surprise in the NCAA tournament.
The Cyclones’ red-shirt freshman at 141 pounds qualified with a 16-19 record. Moreno won his debut with a 5-4 victory over Oklahoma’s Nick Lester in a pigtail match.
“I thought that was a good performance by him,” Iowa State Coach Kevin Jackson said. “He got 15-pointed and beat, 9-2, and comes back and advances (here).”
Moreno’s mat wrestling has been the difference in his outcomes.
“He was being turned early in the season and throughout the second half of the season,” Jackson said. “It was huge for him not to get turned (by Lester)… Gabe rode hard.”
Moreno had lost 11 of his last 12 matches, coming into the national tournament. He earned an automatic berth, beating West Virginia’s Colin Johnston to advance to the finals of the Big 12 Conference Championships. After a dual with Minnesota, Moreno pictured the light at the end of the tunnel and made a final push to the postseason. He took advantage of the opportunity.
“He went out and competed real well, giving him a chance to get here,” Jackson said. “He got here and I think it carried over a little bit.”
Iowans in the tournament
Three former Iowa prep wrestlers competed in the NCAA Championships on Thursday. Unfortunately, they lost first-round matches.
Oklahoma heavyweight and former Ankeny and Ballard state champion Ross Larson fell to Michigan No. 4 seed Adam Coon, 2-0.
Former Centerville prep and Iowa State wrestler Mikey England suffered a technical fall loss to Oklahoma’s former NCAA champion and second-seeded Andrew Howe.
Former ADM two-time state medalist Dakota Friesth dropped a 7-4 decision to The Citadel’s 11th-seeded Turtogtokh Luvsandorj.(K.J. Pilcher contributed to this report)