The day in 1992 Michael Moreno earned NCAA Wrestling All-American honors, perhaps the youngest fan in the building was rooting for the Iowa State senior and former Glenwood state champion.
Michael Jr., then less than a year old, in his mother Kristi’s arms, was “cheering” Dad on as he defeated Bloomsburg University’s Brad Rozanski 3-1 in the seventh place match at 134 pounds to finish his Cyclone career as an All-American.
Nearly 21 years to the day later, history repeated itself as another Michael Moreno walked off the mat at nationals an All-American for the Cyclones.
Michael Jr., a 164-pound Iowa State sophomore defeated Michigan’s Taylor Massa in a dominating 17-2 match on March 23 to place sixth at nationals to become half of the first father-son All-American duo in school history.
Dad was there in the stands that day just as his son had been two decades earlier.
“I know he was cheering me on then,” Michael Sr. recalled. “And it’s kind of weird, 21 years later, I’m cheering him on in the stands as he becomes an All-American. It’s awesome and a really cool thing.”
Twenty minutes later at nationals, the Moreno’s were joined by teammate Kyven Gadson, whose late father Willie was a two-time All-American at Iowa State, as the only TWO father-son All-American duos in school history.
Michael Sr., a 1987 undefeated state champion for Glenwood, said his emotions on that day in 1992 was nothing compared to 2013.
“It’s something that obviously he had thought about since forever,” Michael Sr. said. “So to see him accomplish that goal, it was better for me than when I did it. I felt more joy for him than when I did it. He grew up being around it (wrestling) and wanting to do it for so long was amazing. To bounce back from the year he had last year to do it the year following that (year), was pretty special.”
Last week Michael Jr. was presented with Amateur Wrestling News’ Most Improved Wrestler of the Year award after finishing this season with a 31-10 record and his sixth place showing at nationals. The top seven wrestlers at the NCAA national tournament earn All-American honors.
The climb to All-American wasn’t easy for Michael Jr.
After an undefeated state championship season at Urbandale High School, where Michael Sr. is head coach, Junior signed with Iowa State. After a redshirt season, he took his lumps, trudging through a stacked 157-pound weight class and finishing the year a pedestrian 4-13.
An early season injury, struggles at his new weight and a multitude of factors contributed to Michael Jr.’s struggles, his Dad said. All of those factors affected what Michael Sr. calls the most important part of the competitor’s arsenal: his mind.
“You become what you believe you are,” Michael Sr. said. “His confidence got down, he got beat up a little bit against a tough schedule. He didn’t get his confidence going. The biggest difference was right after last year, he immediately got back in the room with (assistant coach Travis) Paulsen and worked hard all summer and all fall. He (Paulsen) helped hammer into him how good he could be. And that built him back up.”
Michael Sr. can’t recall the moment Junior’s mindset changed but he could see it on the mat almost immediately.
“Going into the year, I knew damn well he was going to do well this year because you could tell he started believing again,” he said. “I was confident he was going to have a great year, much better than last year. He was at a more comfortable weight class, he was strong and he was wrestling hard. It was a process. Through that process his confidence was way up. You could just see it.”
Michael Sr. will have two of his son’s to root on next season in Ames. Michael Jr. will be back for his junior season and youngest son, Gabriel, redshirted this season for the Cyclones. Dad freely admits his sons have passed him by as wrestlers.
“The real comparison between us is our name and our blood,” Michael Sr. joked. “Both of my boys have passed me up. I’m in third place as far as that goes. But that’s good. I’m really proud of both of them. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. Their skill set and their competitiveness is up there. It’s a cool thing. I’m really happy for them both.”