He was the first person in his family to attend college, the first Aggie to wrestle an undefeated season, the first Aggie to earn Pacific-10 Wrestler of the Year. He won UC Davis’ first Division I national title and was the first Californian wrestler to win a national title at the 141-pound weight class.
And if things go the way he plans it, he’ll be the first Aggie wrestler to compete at the Olympic level.
One year ago, on Mar. 17, No. 2 Derek Moore of UC Davis dominated No. 1 Ryan Lang of Northwestern by a 17-2 technical decision in the most decisive match of the 2007 NCAA Division I National Wrestling Championships.
Immediately following this accomplishment, Moore graduated from UC Davis in the winter quarter with a degree in biochemistry and molecular biology.
I went all over the place after I graduated, said Moore from his current residence in Fort Sill, Okla. I did a lot of wrestling clinics all over the nation: Alaska, New York, Ohio and a bunch on the west coast.
Elected the tournament’s most outstanding wrestler, Moore was invited to coach at a number of wrestling clinics in the summer following his graduation.
I probably did somewhere between 20 to 30 clinics at all levels, from high school kids to even working with D-I wrestlers and coaches, Moore said.
Coming out of Shasta High School in Redding, Calif., Moore joined the UC Davis wrestling team as a freshman walk-on and enrolled in the ROTC program to fund his education.
Four years of college meant four years of active duty, and on Oct. 5, 2007, he was commissioned at UC Davis and began officer’s training school just a few weeks later. On Dec. 14, he graduated as a second lieutenant.
I thought I was done studying for exams, but then I come here and I have a lot more, Moore said. It’s like college all over again.
After a short break Moore began the second phase of his training Jan. 7, which he will have completed by Apr. 29.
Scholastically I’m doing really well, Moore said. I never did that well at Davis, and here everyone in my class is a college grad, but I’m still at the head of my class – this stuff is coming easy. I think it’s a testament to the level of education you get at Davis.
Following his completion of the second phase of officer’s training, Moore will be transferred to Fort Carson in Colorado Springs, Colo. There he will begin training as part of the Army World Class Athlete Program for the 2012 Olympics.
Moore’s spot in the elite program was guaranteed by his national title.
It allowed me to avoid having to try out, which was good, Moore said.
On the road to the 2012 Olympic Games in London, Moore has come a long way since he first set foot on a wrestling mat.
Going into high school he wasn’t a stud, said Dustin Noack, former teammate and current senior on the UC Davis wrestling team. Coming to college he was a walk-on, but even before his senior year he was consistently one of the best wrestlers on the team.
As someone who has trained and competed alongside Moore, Noack knows what his former teammate can do.
He doesn’t know how not to succeed, Noack said. He’s just got that mentality that’ll take him anywhere he wants to go.
And Moore knows where he wants to be.
If I could choose an ideal route for my life, I would wrestle as long as I can, until my body gives out, then coach in the army until retirement time so I could get the best in terms of my [retirement] benefits, Moore said.
Seeing Moore as a coach isn’t difficult for Aggie wrestling head coach Lennie Zalesky to visualize.
I think he’d be a very good coach, Zalesky said. He’s an extremely meticulous technician – he’s very organized and he does well with people. He’s got that military style about him.
Moore does not currently have any plans for his degree, which he considers a safety net if his wrestling career is cut short.
If it was up to me I’d stay with wrestling all my life, Moore said. It’s a possibility that I’ll try to become a doctor or a physician’s assistant, but to really pursue my degree would take up so much time and interfere with wrestling.
I’m still pretty young, and coming off a national championship feels pretty good, and you tend to want to keep [wrestling] as part of your life.
This weekend Moore will be attending the NCAA 2008 Division I National Championships in St. Louis, Mo., to cheer on Tyler Bernacchi, Marcos Orozco and Nexi Delgado, who all will be competing.
A four-time national qualifier himself, Moore began his national career in St Louis.
I’m hoping Davis gets another national champ soon, Moore said. Right now I’m thinking about them, hoping they can do it. I’d like to see a national champ in any sport at Davis.
CHARLES HINRIKSSON can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.