After wrapping up his career as a two-time NCAA All-American for the Iowa State Cyclones, Mike Moreno has decided to continue his career on the mat by joining the Cyclone Wrestling Club (CWC) in Ames. The club is ran/coached by Trent Paulson, who also serves as assistant on the Cyclone wrestling staff. The Club currently boasts a number of athletes, chief among them are 2013 World Team member Angel Escobedo (also serving as an assistant for the college team) and Deron Winn, who recently finished fourth at the U.S. Open. Mike Moreno aspires to among that group of notable CWC wrestlers and recently came off a U.S. Open performance that saw him just miss the stand.

For Moreno the decision to stick around to continue his wrestling career was something that he had considered long before his final NCAA championships in St. Louis this past March, “I think my biggest reason at first was just a fear of not wrestling anymore. I have lived wrestling for the better part of 20 years and I just couldn’t imagine just cutting that off cold turkey.” Moreno said on his decision to stay in Ames, “After NCAAs didn’t go the way I wanted, it was basically sealed in stone. I just couldn’t stand St. Louis being my last stop. Although a full time coaching job is the ultimate goal, I still have a year to reach my master’s degree so I have to knock that out too. ”

However, more went into the decision than just the fear of no longer competing for Moreno. The Cyclone wrestling room boasts three coaches with tons of freestyle success on the senior level.

“Trent Paulson is head of the CWC technically and this year he was one of my main training partners as well. Having him join the (coaching staff) was a huge advantage to me this year. He pushed me and gave me feels like no one else in the room could. Of course Travis (Paulson) will forever be my real “mentor” archetype. He took me as a freshman with very low self-worth and confidence and turned me into how I view combat sports now. Aside from my family, no one commands more respect or credit from me. Then there’s Kevin Jackson, who continued to believe in me even when Travis was the only other one to do so. Without him, I probably would have ended up at a different school.”

Going forward Moreno plans to compete at 70 kg, which roughly equates to 154 pounds. For those who followed Moreno’s career, you will notice he is competing a more than a full weigth class lower than where he did in college (165 pounds). Of course senior level event weigh ins differ from college weigh ins (the day before vs weighing in a couple hours before) it is also good to see he is also taking the right approach to making weight the smart way,”The cut at the Open was a tough one but only really the last kilo and a half. Once the season ended I never really skipped a beat. I was running and training again three days after the tournament ended so my weight and diet plan already put me in a good starting spot.”

One of the more immediate challenges a college wrestler faces when entering into the international circuit is adjusting from wrestling folkstyle to the international freestyle. While the two styles share similarities, wrestlers still need to tweak their style to fit in against competitors who have been training exclusively in the style. Moreno said this on the tweaks he needs to make: “The biggest adjustment I need to make is developing a more finessing style. I’ve always felt like a superior physical athlete but in freestyle, you have to be much more mat savvy or technical for the most part.”

Less than two months after just missing out on placing for what would have been his third All-American honor, Moreno got back to work and ready for the U.S. Open. There he competed against plenty of those savvy veterans and after losing his opening round bout, Morneo won three straight matches before falling to eventual third place medalist James Green. One more win, and Moreno himself would have been on the stand.

“Obviously I’m disappointed with how the tournament panned out. I feel like with a few more months or freestyle training I’m right there. The majority of my issues stemmed from just not wrestling “freestyle smart” or “playing the game.””

By failing to place in the top five of the U.S. Open, Moreno did not qualify for the Men’s Senior World Team Trials, Moreno will no longer have to worry about that cut to 70 kg, as it is not an Olympic weight, and 2016 is an Olympic year. The plan now is to get bigger and stronger and the good news is that the next competition is right around the corner. “Right now the plan is the wrestle University Nationals at 74 kg. With 70 kg not being an Olympic weight, it’s time to bulk up for the next 16 months or so.”

University Nationals take place starting Thursday May 28th in Akron, Ohio. Winner of University Nationals qualify for the University World Team and will compete overseas for World medals.

Moreno ended the interview by saying this: “I just want to thank KJ for giving me an opportunity to stick around the program I love and help out. I’m pumped to learn about the coaching game. That’s the dream anyway and he is helping me inch closer to that. I want to thank the CWC for welcoming me to the club so smoothly. Thanks to Mr. Barth of Titan Mercury for giving all of us wrestlers more opportunities to chase dreams and just compete again. It’s something that should not be taken for granted, what they’re doing here. And finally thanks to all my teammates frankly for being the best group and guys I could ask to be around. They make it easy to be comfortable. The homies!

By Ross Bartachek (@rossbchek)

Lead Editor of IA Wrestle