It’s a good thing Billy Moore didn’t take things seriously his first year of scholastic wrestling, or all kind of great things probably would have been left undone.
Starting at age 7 and competing in Bordentown’s Grapevine recreation program, Moore eventually showed up at middle school, won his first match and proceeded to go 1-15 for his sixth-grade season. While some kids would have been frustrated, Moore had a blast.
“I didn’t really care,” he said. “It was my first year in real school competition, so I was young, I just liked it and I wanted to keep doing it in the off season.”
Thus, he joined the Shore Thing wrestling club in Lakewood, where he was coached by former Brick Memorial standout Vinnie Santaniello. When first working with Moore, Santaniello didn’t think he had much more than a kid with desire. Turned out, that was enough to build upon.
“I think Vinnie just kind of took me under his wing,” Moore said. “I don’t think he really saw much in me at first, but determination and hard work. I was always determined and just kind of stick with it. After a year or so, he saw I was being more determined than anyone in the room. I guess I just had the determination and hard work and just being persistent paid off.”
And it’s paying off to this day. Moore started his senior season by winning nine of his first 11 matches and notched his 100th career win by pinning Steinert’s Anthony Verdi on Dec. 30. He is a two-time district champion and qualified for the states as a junior, which he considered a down year.
‘It’s another point in my career. I watched those other guys get their hundredth, and now I’m up there with them.’
His academics are on par with his wrestling, as Moore has a 3.7 grade point average and applied to academic powerhouses such as the U.S. Naval Academy (his first choice), Duke, Brown, Michigan, Bucknell and Division III Muhlenberg.
“He’s a smart kid in the class and on the mat,” Scotties’ coach Matt Benedetti said. “He’s just an awesome kid all the way around.”
He was smart enough to know he needed extra work, which is where going to Shore Thing paid off. Moore got into wrestling because he wanted to emulate his dad, Bill Moore III (Moore is the IV), who wrestled for Bordentown and Mercer County Community College when it still had wrestling.
His dad loved the sport and so did Moore. But he did not enjoy going 1-15.
“I didn’t want to keep losing,” he said. “I just got better, stuck with it all those years and never really got down on myself.”
Moore improved to 7-7 in seventh grade and pulled a complete reversal from his first middle school season by going 15-1 in eighth grade. It was not a fluke, or because he was older and beating up on younger kids. Moore was becoming a quality performer on the mat.
“He became a good middle school wrestler, and just kept getting better,” Benedetti said.
Moore went 33-5 at 106 pounds as a freshman and 37-3 at 113 as a sophomore. He won district championships both years. In ninth grade he went 0-2 in the regionals, and just missed states as a sophomore when he lost in the third-fourth place region match to a wrestler he had beaten the previous evening.
“It was a little shocking,” Moore said. “It was a match where he went after me, and I kind of got caught up in the big atmosphere.”
Moore’s junior season was all over the place in terms of success. Wrestling at 120, he suffered more losses than his first two years combined in going 29-11. He failed to win districts for the first time, losing the final in overtime. But his worst district was followed by his best regional, as Moore defeated Nottingham’s Tariq Moore—who had beaten him earlier in the year—in the third-place finals.
“It was a down year, so that kind of salvaged my season,” Moore said. “It was a little bit of growing year, I was up a little in weight and it’s a little different at 120 than 106 and 113. It was kind of a freak year. I was losing a couple tight matches; I wouldn’t say I wasn’t focused, I just think it was a down year, kind of like a rollercoaster.”
The learning experience culminated in Atlantic City, when Moore showed up at Convention Hall and was greeted by a throng of spectators he had not anticipated. He was ousted in two straight matches, but gained valuable knowledge.
“I think that probably was a good experience and I can finally come back this year and have that experience under my belt,” he said. “I think I got a little shocked when I got down there, it was a little overwhelming. I always wanted to be there, you’re on the mat; it’s a big stage. I’ve wrestled on big stages but never on a stage like that, where everybody’s looking at you.”
Still, making it to states is the holy grail for any high school wrestler.
“That was awesome because the kid works like no one else works on the team,” Benedetti said. “His dedication to wrestling is unbelievable. The first time down there, when you’re actually out there, it’s a little overwhelming. Last year his goal was to get down there, this year we want to place, obviously.”
Moore feels he is wrestling well this season and hopes to win both districts and regions, while placing at states. Wrestling at 126, he’s not a quick-work artist; usually going the full six minutes. He is helped by running cross country, which keeps him strong during marathon matches.
“He’s more concerned on winning than pinning,” Benedetti said. “He likes his tilts, he likes to run the guys down. I would say his toughness and technique are his biggest qualities. On top of that he always tries to get better. Even when he wins matches, he comes off the mat ‘Coach what did I do wrong? What could I have done better? In the shot was my head too high?’ He’s very precise on his details. He wants to make sure his technique is 100 percent perfect.”
Moore feels his success is due to a little bit of everything; saying “My conditioning has really pushed me above; I think it’s a little better than most guys. I think it’s just more willpower, technique, strength, conditioning.”
He gives credit elsewhere as well; lauding the work of Grapevine coach BJ Peterson; Bordentown Middle School’s Chuck Lynch, Benedetti and Joe Sprague, who preceded Benedetti as Scotties coach.
“They all helped me along the way, it hasn’t just been me,” he said.
But he is the finished product of their efforts, as they all took pride in the 100th win. Moore, the eighth Scottie to reach that mark, merely took it as vindication for all his work and his coaches’ work.
“It just kind of solidifies where I am,” he said. “It’s another point in my career. I watched those other guys get their hundredth, and now I’m up there with them.”
With his high school career winding down, Moore is looking toward the next chapter. He has talked with all the wrestling coaches of the schools he applied to, and each one showed interest. His number one choice is Annapolis, as his interest was sparked when he was accepted to a summer seminar and spent four days at the Academy.
“I applied because my friend applied,” Moore said. “He ended up not getting in but I got in and I really liked it. It’s definitely somewhere I want to be. It fits my lifestyle as a leader and everything that goes with it.”
Benedetti said that Moore deferred his leadership role to the upperclassmen his first few years; but has taken charge over the last two.
“He’s a good leader,” the coach said. “He’s first in, last out all the time in practice.”
It’s what happens when a kid loves a sport. He dedicates himself to it, and is not bothered by such things as a 1-15 record.