The Moreno family is one of Iowa’s best all-time wrestling families. If someone tries to argue with me about that, they should go back to their passion of licking windows on the bus. To me, it’s indisputable. They are also some of the coolest. Seriously, have you ever met one of them? All of them are 10X cooler than The Fonz himself! There are multiple Moreno state champions from multiple generations and there are multiple Moreno’s who have excelled at the collegiate level and they have a knack for coaching, as well to say the very least.
I can name 4 Moreno’s off the top of my head who were state champions; Mike, Rick, Michael and Gabe… and that list doesn’t include another one who I know for a fact was good enough to win a couple titles and that was 2002 graduate, Quentin Moreno. I had heard of the Moreno family since I was a little kid, but it was actually Quentin (Glenwood) that I first became very familiar with. He was the first Moreno that I ever met personally and I think my my line of thinking after meeting him was, “that dude was pretty cool. Hope he does well unless he’s wrestling me.” Which somehow never happened. Quentin was at the same weight and same class (2A) as me my Sophomore and Junior seasons, his Freshman and Sophomore seasons… In those years, I was always ranked and choked at districts those two years and Quentin was unranked half the time and placed both of those years. In fact, leading into Quentin’s Senior year, he was the only guy in 2A from the entire 2002 class who had placed all 3 of the previous years coming into the state tourney. He would have been the only 4X placer had he not been ripped off by an official at state his Senior year in a match that he had a 12-0 lead in. The call was so bad that the official has not been invited back. I had him basically pencilled in to win state that year and considered (and still do) him one of the best pound for pound wrestlers in the entire 2002 graduating class.
The 2nd Moreno I had ever met was Rick. I want to say that it was the year, 2012, maybe 2013? It was a year or two after the second time Justin Koethe got called for a slam at state. I know this, because one of my idiot friends tried arguing with me that weekend that it was a Moreno brother that Koethe “slammed” in the semis, in which I knew it wasn’t. It was a Lara. Koethe wasn’t even in the same bracket as a Moreno. Gabe was lighter. That argument was frustrating to me because it went on for hours and I KNEW I was right. I hate that when someone tries to argue with me about something I know I am right about.
So that year, a lot of the Mediapolis clan watched the HS state wrestling tournament at a hotel in West Des Moines called The Red Roof Inn, for we had about 30 kids wrestling at Grade School State the day after HS State concluded. The lobby is where all of my arguing about who Justin Koethe slammed took place. And that Saturday night, we were all partying in the lobby when one of the most coincidental things took place. A group of people who had come from Wells Fargo entered the hotel and a few of them came approached our group in the lobby and one asked, “is it cool to hang out with you guys a bit?” I responded, “of course! What’s your name, man?” “Rick Moreno,” he responded. (It should be mentioned that a few of us were inebriated and I was one of them). I responded with, “OH **** YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME?!?! Please tell this moron right here that it wasn’t a Moreno who got slammed by Justin Koethe the 2nd time at state!!!” I pointed at my friend who I had argued with and another voice chimed in, “it wasn’t a Moreno. It was a Lara.” The voice belonged to Mike Moreno, Rick’s brother. Mike then said, “the Moreno brothers are my sons and they were not slammed by Justin Koethe at state.” I responded by turning to my argumentative friend with, “BOOOOOMMMM!!! When are you going to learn to stop arguing with me?!?!” Ah, it felt so good to have that one resolved by the source.
So those guys hung out a little bit when Mike, who looked pretty tired from an exhausting weekend took off as did the rest of the group. With that clan being from Urbandale, I don’t know if they went home, or what, but all of them except Rick left. Rick hung around with us for a couple hours and talked wrestling or well, talked whatever with us and although we had just met him, he fit right in there. I even remember talking music with him which, in my opinion, Rick Moreno has better taste in music than 99% of any wrestlers I’ve met. There aren’t many wrestlers that I run into who recognizes the brilliance of the band Joy Division. One of the coolest people you’ll run into at one of these big tournaments. It was a ton of fun hanging out with him and when he left, he was like, “I’m gonna get some sleep. You guys have a good night. I hope you aren’t hurting in the morning.” It was like 2 AM and I responded with, “oh, we’ll live, I hope… we are still going to the casino tonight.” Rick kinda raised his eyebrows, chuckled and said, “whoa, well have fun guys! It was a lot of fun talking to ya.” And he left. He probably didn’t think the meathead-looking guy he talked to that night would even remember that night when he woke up and it probably seems even more crazy to him that this guy would write about it almost a decade later. And holy cow, we were all hurting terribly the next day at Grade School State.
Rick Moreno, the first and i hope not the last members of the Moreno clan to be covered in a “Remember The Wrestler” article.
What clubs, schools, etc. did you wrestle for?
Glenwood H.S, North Idaho C.C., Mount St. Clare Univ.
What year did you graduate?
Who or what encouraged you to give wrestling a try?
We moved from Nebraska when I was just getting ready to start kindergarten. My brother Mike had been boxing and I had just started to get into it as well. When we moved to Glenwood, they didn’t have boxing in our town and Mike decided to try wrestling. Of course, I did what many young brothers do and followed what older brother was doing.
Do you have any family who wrestled or wrestles currently? Parents, children, brothers, etc.? How did they do?
My brother Mike State Champ, 3X place winner and All-American at Iowa State, Nephew Quintin Moreno I believe a 4X place winner at state, Nephew Michael Moreno State Champ and I believe 3x place winner, 2x All-American at Iowa State, Nephew Gabriel Moreno State Champ and again..I think a 3X placer winner also wrestled at Iowa State and was a 3X NCAA qualifier. I have a son here in Montana that is a Freshman and took 5th this year at 120.
What were your youth results? Any rivals there?
Oh man, I have a hard time remembering that kinda stuff. Not sure about how many youth FS and GR State titles. I think my 8th grade year was the first year for the AAU State Championships and I won that and Northern Plains as well…just not sure about all that stuff.
What was your record in HS?
That’s another one I’m not sure about. Something like 134-11-2…maybe. I was never into stats or record keeping stuff…never looked at my bracket other than just to see where I was on it. Running my youth club out here in Montana, I don’t keep win/loss records with them either. I really just try and focus on development and the process. I think I have always looked at it that way.
How did you place at state every year?
Freshman yr. I got beat in overtime in the Quarterfinals and that was back when if they guy who beat you didn’t make it to the finals, you were out. So I didn’t place. My Sophomore yr. I tore my hamstring in the Quarterfinals. and had to default out of the tournament and I did not place. Won it my Junior and Senior years.
What were some of the most notable adverse challenges or moments you experienced in wrestling and how did it turn out?
I think my Sophomore year was a good test for me. I have no idea what my record was, but I do know I hadn’t been beat that year and I felt I was really going to win, but then I got hurt in the qt. I remember sitting in my bedroom over the summer feeling pretty bad because the healing process was really taking a long time and I couldn’t do anything like run, wrestle, etc. and it even hurt to sit. I remember throwing my shoes away and saying, “I’m done wrestling,” but my mom was there to basically give it to me straight and told me to pick myself up and get going. That helped me get through in the high school days.
I think I still get pissed at myself for my college days. I was 2X NJCAA All-American and NAIA Champion, but I was never really happy with any of it. Poor life decisions when I was younger and not taking school serious kept me from some of my goals. After winning NAIA’s my junior year I decided to hang up wrestling. I had a kid that was 1 yrs. old, a wife, and a promising career with the U.S. Forest Service. It made me realize that I had to accept that opportunities come and go and you have to be able to transition from one to another or your going miss out. It worked for me. I feel wrestling taught me that. In addition to many other lessons.
How would you describe your wrestling style?
Wrestle hard and try to score as many points as I could. I liked being on my feet.
How many guys in high school did you go back and forth with or exchange wins with?
Not a lot. I didn’t lose by points to anyone after my freshman year. My losses were by injury my sophomore year and slams my junior and senior years, so really not any back and forths. I’m not saying I didn’t have good close matches, just didn’t feel I had any back and forths.
Who was your most influential coach?
I have had the opportunity to be around some great coaches, but Bob Dyer always comes to my mind. He was a motivator and no non sense kind of a guy. Treated everyone the same no matter who you were. Dan Knight was by far the best technician I had as a coach. Great guys that I often think about.
Was your team competitive in HS/college?
Yes. We won a team title when I was a Sophmore and took 3rd in the dual team..I think. We took 2nd as a team my senior year. College at North Idaho we won a team title and took 2nd or third one year.
Who was your most influential wrestler that you looked up to growing up?
My brother was always the one I looked up to, but man there was so many as I sit here and think. Barry Davis, Steve Hamilton, Kevin Jackson, Eric Akin…of course Gable.
Who would you consider the GOAT Iowa HS wrestler?
During their high school yrs. Either Mark Schwab or Dan Knight…that I remember watching.
Who are your favorite current wrestlers?
So many of those guys too. College-maybe Spencer Lee or RBY. Senior Level Dake, Gadson or J’den Cox…just good guys all around.
What music would you listen to back in the wrestling days?
Everything! Motown oldies, The Cure, LL Cool J, Metallica…just a bunch of different artist….depends what kind of mood I was feeling.
What was the most upset you ever felt after a loss?
They all sucked! None was worse than the other for me.
If you could go back and change one thing about your wrestling career, what would it be?
Focus on grades and be a better student! You won’t go anywhere without em.
What was your best wrestling memory or accomplishment?
Winning an NAIA title. I knew it was the closure I needed before I could start my Forest Service career.
Who were some of your most notable competitors in high school? College?
I was never good with names either. I just remember guys like Mike Uker, Matt Hatcher, Sean Scarbrough and Zack Light….seems like we always seen each other at all the different events.
Did you wrestle all year or was it seasonal for you?
Pretty much all year. I was always practicing or drilling. I wasn’t always competing all year long.
How would the guys from your day stack up against the guys today?
I think pretty good, but I believe all wrestlers would say something like that. We are all pretty damn competitive! LOL
Did you wrestle after high school?
I did. North Idaho NJCAA and Mount St. Clare NAIA
What other sports did you play?
Football and fast pitch softball
What are your favorite sports teams?
I’m not a big sport follower kind of guy. I love playing sports, but I don’t get to crazy about following sports. I like watching college football to some degree and I do Love those Nebraska Corn Huskers!!
What are your hobbies other than wrestling?
Fishing, Hiking and doing stuff with my family.
How good does it make you feel to give back to the sport?
I love it! I love wrestling and it has given me so much in my life, as far as facing adversities and trusting in a process! What I really like though is reminding these kids that it’s just wrestling, don’t get caught in the bubble that it’s everything. I think it puts too much pressure on kids, especially at the younger lever. Just relax and have fun.
How has wrestling shaped you as a person to this day?
I think it’s the core of who I am. Work ethic, personal accountability, goal setting, just to name a few. You always have a chance as long as you are still in the game, don’t give upand keep moving forward!
What do you do now?
I’m a Missoula Smokejumper (Parachuting into back country to fight wildland fires). I live in Missoula, Montana. I’ve been with the U.S. Forest Service for the past 27 yrs. as a Wildland Firefighter.
Are you still involved with wrestling?
Yes. I run an academy here in Missoula and I’m also a head coach here at one of the high schools.
Any advice for upcoming wrestlers?
Have fun with it. What you put in, is what you will get out of it. Focus on the process and the lessons, the rest will fall in place. The sport is tough and demanding and it takes a special breed to be a wrestler. Embrace that you are not like everyone else.
Any chance we see you wrestle again at an Old Timer’s tournament?
No way! Nothing to prove on the mat for me anymore!
Would you like to give a shout out to anyone you wrestled with, against, coached, etc.?
Thank you to everyone I ever wrestled with, against, or has coached me. It’s the best sport out there with some of the most humble and genuine people!
Do you have anything to add? Funny/interesting stories? Trivia? Etc.
No. Thanks for reaching out to me! Good luck to all you Iowa wrestlers! Nothing like being a wrestler from Iowa!