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Wrestling: Moore is wrestling boys, and winning for Riverhead

In wrestling, girls aren’t supposed to beat boys.

Not so fast. Katie Moore may have a thing or two to say about that.

Moore isn’t only a wrestling veteran, but she’s a veteran at wrestling against boys. And the Riverhead High School senior has not only been wrestling against boys, but she has been winning.

With a 2-3 showing and a sixth-place finish at 182 pounds in the Wes Dolson Invitational at Mattituck High School Saturday, Moore brought her season record to 12-15.

“I definitely do surprise a lot of boys,” she said following her 7-0 loss to Longwood’s Yoskar Beltre in Saturday’s fifth-place match. “I’ve seen a lot of tears that have come off the mat from my opponents.”

Upon closer examination, that record is even more impressive, gender issues aside. Riverhead competes in League II, which coach Jake Benedetto said “in my opinion and other coaches’ opinions is the toughest league in the county. It’s a loaded league.”

And then there is the matter of Moore’s left hand. In June she tried to lift a trailer when it fell on her hand. “I was out training in Minnesota with my friends, and we were having fun,” she said.

Moore estimated that 200 to 300 pounds of pressure crushed her hand, which then required two surgeries. She broke three bones in the accident, but then broke another five while wrestling with the broken hand in a national tournament in Fargo, N.D.

“Within like a week and a half, I was back on the mat with stitches in my hand, wrestling,” she said.

Riverhead’s Katie Moore tangling with Longwood’s Yoskar Beltre in a fifth-place match in the Wes Dolson Invitational Saturday in Mattituck. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)

Moore still feels the effect of that trailer mishap in the form of numbness over the top of her hand. She wears prewrap and tape on her hand to protect the scars. “I do still have a lot of numbness because from the first surgery I had nerve damage and they cleaned it up, but I’ll have the numbness probably for the rest of my life,” she said.

Moore, in her eighth wrestling season (fourth at the varsity level), is considered to be the first girl to wrestle for the Riverhead varsity team. Riverhead’s former coach, the late Tom Riccio, said in a 2017 interview that he had never seen a female Riverhead varsity wrestler in his 46 years of familiarity with the program.

Moore, who will wrestle for the Life University (Ga.) women’s team, works hard at her craft. She trains outside of school, in the offseason, travels to out-of-state tournaments, wrestling against some of the best girls in the country.

Benedetto has known Moore for four or five years, ever since they met when she was in a girls wrestling program in East Islip. He can’t say he is surprised by what he has seen from her this season. “She’s finally wrestling to the ability that I know she’s capable of,” he said.

Moore said she has been pinned only three times this season. “I think the biggest thing for me is to not get pinned just because I see a pin as giving up and sometimes you can’t just not get pinned because the boy is just so much stronger, but I think I hold my own,” she said.

As Moore has gotten older and her male opponents have grown bigger, her matches have become tougher.

“It’s a little hard on my mind because I would get these matches and I would think, ‘Oh, I’m just the same as any other guy out there,’ ” she said. “But then, at the end of the day, I have to realize that I am a girl and they’re biologically stronger than me. But I think I really push myself in practice and I try to do the best that I can.”

Asked if classmates, particularly girls, are amazed by what she does, Moore answered: “All my friends, they tell me they’re like inspired by me. They wish they could do what I do.”

Riverhead has another girl on the team, sophomore Kelsey Squires, as well as Moore’s younger brother, Xavier, a sophomore who was sixth at 106 pounds in Saturday’s tournament.

Katie Moore recognizes that her time wrestling for Riverhead is nearing an end.

“Yeah, it is a little sad,” she said, “just because my whole life I’ve been wrestling with boys, and after the next two weeks, I’ll never step foot on the mat with a guy again in a match.”

But she will continue wrestling.

“I love wrestling,” she said. “There’s nothing I’d rather do. Every match is different … Anything can happen.”