It’s in their blood

Mike Ashcraft

Assistant wrestling coaches compete on freestyle level

Credit: Steve Schirra

Many athletes become coaches to stay close to the game and to pass passion and knowledge to participants whose shoes they were once in.

Josh Moore and Jarrad Turner are slight exceptions. Being assistant wrestling coaches on Jim Andrassy’s staff at Kent State doesn’t quite quench the thirst to compete.

Moore, a third-year assistant coach, and Turner, a second-year graduate assistant coach, have both continued their grappling careers by joining the senior freestyle level.

Senior freestyle is not unlike a professional sports league. Men who have just graduated from college to those who are 33 years old, compete for cash, which is the prize for winning or placing. More importantly, it’s an opportunity for those aspiring to make the Olympic teams and world teams for the United States to stay sharp and compete against a high level of competition.

“I still got it,” said Turner, a 145-pounder. “I’m not broken yet. I’m still young and healthy.”

Moore said wrestling is just part of who he is and couldn’t imagine his life without it.

“It’s the kind of sport where most guys are pretty into it, and after they graduate, it’s hard to get out of their systems,” said Moore, who finished sixth in the U.S. Nationals competition at 132 pounds this year.

Competing at the senior freestyle level and helping to coach the Flashes isn’t the only thing Moore and Turner have in common. The two were teammates at Penn State – Moore graduated in 2004 and Turner in 2005.

Moore was a two-time All-American with the Nittany Lions, as well as a national runner-up in ’04. He etched his place in the school’s record books by becoming the all-time leader in single season (24) and career pins (53), all while compiling a 13-4 NCAA championship record. Turner was a four-year letterwinner in Happy Valley and earned University Freestyle National All-American honors.

The two young coaches both have perhaps the most accurate scouting reports on each other, having competed together in college and now at the national level.

“Don’t let him get on top of you, because he’s going to turn you and he’s going to pin you. He’s tenacious,” Turner said when describing Moore.

“He’s real quick,” smiled the soft-spoken Moore whose twin brother, Scott, is an assistant coach at Virginia. “Good leg sweep; he’s always trying to kick you. He’s real aggressive and gets after it. He has a good attitude about winning.”

After a year at Kent State, Moore, who is from Franklin, Pa., was helping to find a graduate assistant for the team, and Turner immediately came to mind. He called up his former teammate, who is from Hudson, and Turner was interested and took the job.

Both are learning what it takes to become a coach at the collegiate level, an experience that has been an eye-opener.

“When you compete, you don’t think about it, you just say, ‘OK, coach, get this done for me.’ (Andrassy) hears that all day, every day from all the guys on the team, and then he hears it from us,” Turner said.

Moore and Turner saw last season’s squad pull off quite a turnaround. The Flashes bounced back from consecutive seasons with losing dual-meet records to finish 14-4-1 and second in the MAC Tournament.

Both feel their players will be forces to be reckoned with this season, and apparently, so does the rest of the conference. The team was ranked second in the preseason annals, while junior 157-pounder Kurt Gross and sophomore heavyweight Jermail Porter earned No.1 individual rankings. Earning No. 2 rankings were senior Aaron Miller and junior Ardian Ramadani.

“You see a change coming in these guys where they’re starting to believe in themselves more, where, in the past, they didn’t think they could compete with Big Ten teams, Big 12 teams,” Turner said. “Now, they see these guys as another guy they have to beat. They feel they’re on the same plane as them. They’re not afraid of anybody,” Turner said.

“It’s not just one or two of them who want to do good, they all want to do good,” Moore said. “They all want to win, and they feel like they can.”

Kent State is in action this weekend at the Oklahoma Gold Invitational in Brockport, NY.

Contact sports correspondent Mike Ashcraft at [email protected].