One can say this about Katie Moore, she has courage and toughness.
“Oh, there’s no doubt about that,” Riverhead High School wrestling coach Tom Riccio readily agreed.
While rare, it’s not unheard of for girls to wrestle in middle school. The high school varsity level is a different story entirely.
Moore, a freshman, is in her first varsity season with Riverhead. Riccio, who has been familiar with Riverhead wrestling for 46 years, believes Moore is the first girl to ever wrestle at the varsity level for the Blue Waves.
Moore (1-4), who started the season wrestling at 160 pounds but now wrestles at 154, picked up her first varsity win with a 5-3 decision over Hampton Bays’ Joseph Gaudiello last Wednesday. She has a 2-1 record in junior varsity matches this season.
Moore’s reaction to her first varsity win? It’s no big thing.
“I mean, it was just like any other match, really,” she said during a break in Monday’s practice. “It doesn’t really matter much.”
Now, Moore’s inclusion on the Cadet New York team in freestyle wrestling for girls in ninth and 10th grades is something else. Next week she will train with the national team. “It’s pretty big,” she said.
Moore also plays field hockey and golf, but likes the consuming dedication wrestling requires.
“I love it,” she said. “It’s my favorite thing to do.”
Moore started wrestling at a camp the summer before she entered fifth grade. She has her younger brother Xavier, a freshman, to thank for it. “I thought it was really cool because I watched my younger brother do it for three years, and then I started,” she said.
Now, after two seasons of middle school wrestling, Moore is tangling every day with varsity boys in the Riverhead wrestling room, no place for the faint of heart.
“I know that she’s a hard worker and she stays with it, but again, this is a different room than where she came from,” said Riccio.
Moore said she only started wrestling against girls last March. Her experience in high school wrestling has been beneficial.
“I am so much stronger than other girls I wrestle,” she said. “I wrestle girls that are 50 pounds heavier than me and I’m still destroying them because I have so much more muscle than they do.”
Moore said her teammates don’t treat her differently because of her gender.
“She’s able to stick with it because she’s tough and she’s strong and able to deal with many factors that most girls can’t,” Riverhead freshman Sean Prunty said. “She works very hard. All of us guys out here, we all respect her. We know it’s hard and she holds her own against all of us.”
If her appearance in matches draws surprised looks from other teams, Moore said she doesn’t notice them.
In the meantime, her experience wrestling against boys should help her when she starts wrestling against girls in the next few weeks that will lead up to USA Wrestling’s Cadet/Junior National Championships, July 14-22 in Fargo, North Dakota. She expects to be there.
She said, “This is like my preseason.”
Photo caption: Riverhead freshman Katie Moore is believed to be the first girl to wrestle a varsity match for the Blue Waves. (Credit: Joe Werkmeister)