MCPHERSON, Kan. - Nickerson junior 106-pounder Nichole Moore didn’t compete at the girls’ state meet the last two seasons. Instead, Moore wrestled against boys and has nearly qualified for the Class 4A state tournament.
This year, Moore planned to wrestle a full allotment of varsity boys’ meets and wasn’t going to be able to attend girls’ state.
On Monday, though, Moore’s mother, Angel, texted coach Nick Flowers. Nichole had a 102 degree fever and missed Monday and Tuesday’s practice.
Nickerson cancelled school Wednesday because of weather. Moore had limited time to prepare for Friday’s Central Kansas League tournament and wasn’t able to participate.
She practiced Thursday and decided Friday night to wrestle at girls’ state instead.
The choice yielded a state title Saturday at McPherson High School in the third annual unofficial girls’ state tournament. Moore, ranked eighth nationally at 106 pounds, went 5-0 at the Roundhouse. It marked her first matches against girls all season.
“I guess it turned out pretty well,” Moore said. “It’s a little bit different. I like getting to see all the girls, because it’s a really good team camaraderie, but it’s just different. It’s a lot of fun.”
Moore, McPherson’s Mya Kretzer, Junction City’s Elisa Robinson are among a group of nationally ranked girl wrestlers that headlined the state competition.
The meet featured more than 400 matches and multiple weight classes had two or three brackets. Seventy-eight schools entered and 76 tallied at least one point. McPherson captured the team title with 113 points. Nickerson was No. 13 at 43 points. Nickerson senior Harley Kuntz earned the 220-285 pound division and finished 8-2 this year.
“I love seeing the other girls,” Moore said. “It’s awesome. I compete with all of them in the offseason at nationals and stuff, and I love getting to see them during the high school season when I can.”
Girls’ wrestling has significantly grown in the last several years. This spring, the KSHSAA board is expected to vote on whether to make girls’ wrestling a sanctioned sport starting next year. Many believe it will pass.
Next week, Moore, 33-7 against boys this season, will compete in the Class 4A Pratt regional. Moore has captured championships in the Nickerson and Garden Plain boys tournaments.
“I want one more tournament before regionals, so we signed me up for girls’ state,” Moore said.
Flowers expects Moore to fall in “right around” the fifth speed. Top-four qualify for the boys’ state tournament in two weeks.
It’s highly rare for a girl to qualify for boys’ state wrestling, though Moore has won more than 80 matches against boys in the last three seasons.
“I feel like I compete against the guys really well, yeah,” Moore said. “But when I go out there, I am just a wrestler, competing against other wrestlers, so I don’t see a separation between there any. I feel like I should be able to make (state). Yeah, it’s going to be tough. I have a tough regionals, but I am not going to count myself out, or else there is no reason to go.”
Moore, like several other wrestlers Saturday, has significantly competed at the national level and used wrestling to help in all areas of life. Kretzer’s dad, Doug, is the longtime McPherson coach and helped Mya and her brothers. Moore’s father got her involved.
“Because when I was younger, I got bullied, and I wasn’t a very athletic kid,” Moore said. “So my dad was like, ‘Put her in wrestling, and it will help her.’ And it helped me a lot. It made me a lot more confident in myself, so it didn’t bother me what people said anymore.”
While Moore has won many high-level matches and is one of the few Nickerson state wrestling champions in school history, she is most proud of her personal development.
“Probably just how far I’ve come, and my team and the friends I have now,” she said. “I used to be really shy and stuff, so being able to come out here and compete in front of all these people and go to national tournaments and compete, it just gives me so much confidence. It just helps me so much in everything.”
Moore lives in Abbyville, population 87, and 19 miles from Nickerson. She normally needs 15 to 25 minutes to get to school and longer on Thursday because of the weather. Moore battled through her first practice since getting ill.
“Thursday, she came to practice, she worked her butt off, and she’s like, ‘Coach, I might die on this one,’” Flowers said.
Flowers told Moore the choice was “your call” on competing Saturday. On Friday, Moore told Flowers she would be there Saturday morning.
Around 9 a.m., Team USA National Team member Amy Fearnside spoke to all the girls. Fearnside stayed around all day and talked to many of the athletes and helped pass out medals. After Fearnside’s talk, Moore was the very first match. She won by fall in 1 minute, 12 seconds.
“It was cool getting to start,” Moore said. “I wasn’t ready. Like I was ready to wrestle, but I didn’t realize I was going to be up first, but got to do what you’ve got to do.”
Then, Moore won other two round-robin matches by fall in 1:45 and 1:50.
In the winner’s bracket, she beat Concordia junior Kassidy Leiszler, 12-2. Leiszler took third with an 11-2 record.
“She is a competitor,” Flowers said. “She has the drive and the heart, that it doesn’t matter who steps across from her, she is going to give it everything she has every single match. It’s 100 percent no matter what, doesn’t matter if it’s No. 1 in the state boy or any girl.”
Moore clinched the title in her last match against Osawatomie junior Amanda Newcomb, the eventual runner-up.
The match was scoreless at the end of the first period, though Moore pulled away to lead 6-0 after the second period and eventually earned a forfeit victory. Moore finished with 25 points and tied Great Bend’s Breanna Ridgeway and Kretzer for tenth among all wrestlers.
“I really like being on top,” Moore said. “I feel like I can really dominate there when I can keep my hands on people, so then I have more control. Especially the girls, I feel like I am really strong compared to a lot of them, so I feel like when I can get on top, I can control them.”