Welcome to Interview #66.
I am pleased to share with you the wisdom of NCAA Division 1 Wrestling Coach of American University, Teague Moore.
Coach Teague Moore has been the head wrestling coach at American University for six years. Prior to arriving at American, Moore was the head coach at Clarion in Clarion, Pa., for five seasons.
Moore was a four-year starter at Oklahoma State under Head Coach John Smith, winning the 1998 118 lbs. NCAA Championship with a pin of Michigan State’s Dave Morgan in the finals. Moore continued his wrestling career at the international level following his graduation from Oklahoma State.
Before you were a coach, you were a wrestler yourself. I would like to start the interview with your journey. Can you tell us about your experience being recruited out of high school to compete at Division 1 schools?
I only looked at a few schools: Oklahoma State, Penn State, and Cornell. I visited Penn State twice; once on an unofficial visit, and then again on an official. I also when on an official visit to Oklahoma State. I verbally committed to OSU after that visit. My older brother was wrestling at North Carolina at the time and helped answer a lot of my questions during the decision process.
How did you make your decision to attend the Oklahoma State University?
It was the fall 1994 and Coach Smith was the biggest name in wrestling. When I met with him and learned of the other recruits considering Oklahoma State, I was convinced that was where I wanted to be.
What advice do you have for high school athletes who desire to compete in college but don’t know where to begin?
- Make a list of top priorities. He should considered the wrestling program as a whole: the coaching staff, his potential teammates, the facilities, the conference the program competes in, and his ability to start.
- Academics need to be a key consideration as well. If a recruit is undecided as to what his major should be, he should make sure the school has viable options that he could see himself pursuing, even if he isn’t sure which one he will ultimately choose.
- College is getting more and more expensive and finances are a key consideration as well. After scholarships and financial, can you afford to attend?
- A school’s location is important. A recruit has to like the campus, and the area that surrounds it.
- Make a point to learn about the recently alumni of the program. They should ask the coach what the alumni are doing post-graduation. That will give them an insight as to what their future could look like.
You wrestled for John Smith at Oklahoma State. How did he impact your life?
John Smith taught me many valuable lessons regarding wrestling and life. I lost my father in the fall of my sophomore year. His death impacted me in many ways, some of which I never imagined. Coach Smith helped me through that time. He was not only a coach, but also a mentor and a father.
Coach Smith helped me understand what it takes to win at the collegiate and international level. He developed wrestlers at Oklahoma State and I was fortunate to witness some of those transformations. The older I get, the more I appreciate the opportunity I was given to be in that environment.
You won an exciting NCAA National Championship in 1998. You were wrestling against an undefeated wrestler who had previously defeated you. What are your memories from that match?
It’s hard to recall all of the thoughts and emotions but I clearly remember a few things. I remember Coach Smith saying, “Go win your national title” as I headed on stage. The rest of the match memories are pretty spotty. When I watch the match on film, the emotions come back but I can’t recall the specifics. One thing that does stand out is the official slapping the mat. I remember thinking, “Was that a fall?” I also remember the vivid image of my father that flashed in my mind at that moment, as if he was there with me. Then all I could feel was the complete and total exhilaration of the moment!
- If you are a wrestling fan, this is a thrilling match!
What was your freshmen experience like compared to that of your future years at Oklahoma State?
I would describe my freshman experience at OSU as long, arduous, and grueling. I was 29-15 and contemplated leaving OSU. I questioned my ability to win at the D1 level.
My junior year was full of ups/downs. I lost 4 times that year, but entered the NCAA’s prepared to win. I would attribute my junior year success to the growth I experienced during my sophomore season. I had gone undefeated after my father’s death until the NCAA semi-finals that year. Although I took 4th at NCAA’s my sophomore year, I knew I was capable winning the National Title.
My senior year I took a few more losses during the season but I was well prepared going into the NCAA’s. I lost a 3-3 decision to Stephen Abas in the semi-finals in a 30 second ride out. I kicked and rolled as hard as I could but after 2 stalemate situations, I had not broken free for an escape or reversal and lost the opportunity to defend my title. It was a tough loss to take. Being at home in Pennsylvania, on the campus of Penn State, made it tougher.
After college you embarked on an international career. What are the highlights for you during those years?
The major highlight is the experience I gained while representing Team USA all over the world, both on the mat and off. Winning the 2000 University World Championships in Tokyo and wrestling in Iran, Cuba, and Russia were memorable moments. The opportunity to experience different cultures and witness the global appreciation for wrestling educated me in a way the classroom never could.
Some of those trips were limited to a hotel room, workout room, a sauna, and a gym. But I was able to meet foreign wrestlers, train with them, and learn their strategies.
I remember the reception of our delegation in Iran. The people were ecstatic to meet and talk to an American. They appreciated who we were and what we were doing. The common love of the sport transcended the political differences.
In Cuba, I gained a stronger appreciation for life in America. We truly have an opportunity to live here. In Cuba they are limited by so much. Their wrestlers have essentially no facilities or resources, and yet they are able to be competitive at the highest level. My trip to Cuba taught me that an individual’s condition does not limit the desire to achieve beyond his means.
While competing in Russia, I learned that you will not win, if they have decide that you will not win. Confused? They cheat, they change scores, they fix matches. Yes, Russian athletes work hard to master the sport, yes they embrace wrestling within their culture but when they decide “the fix is in, THE FIX IS IN!”
Again, these are only a few highlights of my international career. The experience was educational, life changing, and one I would not change if I had to do it over again…although having a 135 UFC belt would be pretty cool.
Now, turning to your prospective as a coach. Should a wrestler personally contact you by phone, text or email? What will you do next if you are contacted by a high school athlete?
Recruits should complete our online recruiting questionnaire, which can be found on the AU website. We will decide by your academic and athletic success if acceptance to AU is likely. The academic standards at American are high and like many of our EIWA counterparts, we do our due diligence to find the right athletes for our program. Once we assess if an athlete is the right fit for our program, we will follow up via email or phone call depending on which NCAA guidelines apply in that specific situation.
Could you share, in whatever detail you are comfortable, what the athletic scholarship break down looks like on your roster?
I am not at liberty to speak on the specifics. I can say that many of our athletes who earn scholarship have attained national success while in high school. Freestyle and Folkstyle results are most important in combination with their academic success. If an athlete comes to AU as a walk-on, no scholarship, they can earn their way into scholarship by performing well on the mat and in the classroom.
What are a few of the most common mistakes that prospective-student athletes make in the college recruiting process?
They assume that college coaches are going to be able offer a lot of scholarship money. Wrestling is limited to 9.9 scholarships for an entire squad. This creates a high demand for the scholarship money and some parents and prospects do not realize how competitive it is at the college level to earn scholarship money.
Also, recruits often do not explore all of their options before committing to a school. Remember that as an athlete you are going to eat, sleep, study, train, and have fun at one school, at one program for the next 5 years. And then you will be an alumnus for the rest of your life. Take the time to explore your options and learn about a coach and their staff.
There are so many positives about Title IX for women, but there have been unintended consequences on men’s sports, especially wrestling. Can you talk about the state of collegiate wrestling, how it has been impacted over the past few decades and what the future of collegiate wrestling looks like?
Title IX is reaching much further into college campuses than just the sporting environment. Keep an eye on the news over Title IX issues moving forward on college campuses. We are going to see a drastically changing environment due to Title IX implications. I’m not going to voice my opinion on the issue but I suggest every mother, father, and prospect listen, learn, and educate yourself on the Title IX environment on college campuses. It is a reality and it will be effect many young people moving forward.
As for wrestling, we have to do our due diligence and work hard to be a part of the athletic and community environment on campus. It is our job to integrate and assimilate to campus, we should take nothing for granted.
What are the differences between competing on the mat at the high school or club level and the college level? What do incoming freshmen need to be prepared for?
The biggest difference is that in high school, talent usually wins. In college, hard work wins. Knowing and understanding the difference is a vital aspect winning at this level. You must be willing to go the extra mile—your opponents are.
Can you share a creed, quote or philosophy you try to instill into your athletes?
Maximize your potential as an athlete, a student, and a human being. In the end, we will be measured for what we earned, not for what we were given.
Bonus Question: Is there anything important that you would like to share directly with high school athletes or wrestlers in particular as they navigate the recruiting process?
Like everything in life, do the work, and ask the questions.
Bonus video: Teague Moore vs. Eric Akin Real Pro Wrestling
Next, take a look at Division I Athletic Scholarships.
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Moore was a four-year starter at Oklahoma State under Head Coach John Smith, winning the 1998 118 lbs. NCAA Championship with a pin of Michigan State’s Dave Morgan in the finals. A three-time All-American, he also placed third in 1999, fourth in 1997 and qualified for Nationals as a freshman. Moore was a two-time BIG XII Champion and runner-up as a senior, and currently ranks 18th in Cowboy history with a career record of 118-25.
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