Iowa's Jeremiah Moody won a Junior national title in men's freestyle last month. This coming weekend, he'll attempt to make the Junior world team. Cody Goodwin, firstname.lastname@example.org
IOWA CITY, Ia. — Maybe you have seen it.
Ahead of the Iowa wrestling team’s Jan. 5 home dual against Michigan State, the program released a public-service announcement for three wrestlers who were making their home debuts. The video featured Jeremiah Moody, a sophomore middleweight who deadpanned a humorous message.
“Friday is a big deal for three Hawkeyes,” Moody says. “Spencer Lee, Alex Marinelli and Carter Happel will make their Carver-Hawkeye (Arena) debuts. You never forget your first time.
“Mine was … November 17? I don’t know. Sometime last year.
“It’s something you’ll never forget.”
Graphics on the video popped up to correct the obviously-joking Moody. His lone appearance inside Carver came on Nov. 18, 2016, where he wrestled 184 pounds and pinned Iowa Central’s Anthony Jones in 70 seconds.
That promo video — titled, “Jeremiah Moody Public Service Announcement” — is one of the few times Iowa wrestling fans have seen Moody during his three-year Hawkeye career. But this weekend, he has an opportunity to advance to the world stage.
Moody is one of a handful of Iowa wrestlers competing at this weekend’s Junior world team trials in Rochester, Minnesota. He already has a spot in the best-of-three finals at 74 kilograms (roughly 163 pounds), which means he’s two wins away from qualifying for the 2018 world championships, set for September 17-23 in Trnava, Slovakia.
“Coming here, that’s the goal,” Moody said recently. “You win a national title, you win a world title, you win an Olympic title. That’s part of the process.”
'Individual sports are where it's at'
Moody took a giant step forward in that process last month, when he navigated a 47-person bracket unseeded to win the Junior freestyle national title in Las Vegas. He outscored his six opponents 72-40 — he won twice by technical fall, including once in a 21-point outburst in his third match, then won his final three matches by a combined five points, including twice in comeback fashion.
An impressive performance, no doubt, but even more so perhaps because Moody only started wrestling seven years ago.
Moody's introduction to wrestling came during his freshman year at Cambridge High School in Wisconsin. He tried it after a football coach suggested it might help him with his foot placement and hand movement as a tight end. He ultimately dropped football and focused on wrestling full time.
“I just liked the correlation between how much work you put in and how much better you get, and the success you find,” Moody said. “It’s all on you. Individual sports are where it’s at, in my opinion.”
He was a natural on the mat. By the time Moody graduated, he was Cambridge’s all-time leader in takedowns in a season (150) and a career (369). He was a three-time freestyle and Greco-Roman All-American. His budding talents and enticing potential brought him to Iowa City.
'The funny man'
Along with his wrestling ability, Moody injected a sense of humor into the program. For the team picture prior to the season, Moody sat in the third row and flashed a cheesy, wide-eyed, impossible-to-miss smile. His mug shot is an even cheesier version. He was a prime candidate for the aforementioned video.
“He’s just goofy,” Iowa freshman Jacob Warner said. “He’s always fun in the room, telling jokes and stuff. It’s just kind of his personality, being the funny man.”
On the mat, Moody has grown some, despite inconsistent results. In three years, he’s won 41 matches, 19 of which came during his redshirt season in 2015-16. He’s listed at 165 pounds, and has been a reserve behind All-American starters Michael Kemerer (157) and Alex Marinelli (165).
Breaking out in Vegas
So Las Vegas served as a breakout performance, of sorts. Moody became a national champion just seven years after he started wrestling. When told of that fact, the Iowa wrestling mindset prevailed — he more or less shrugged it off.
“Other people have done it quicker,” Moody said. “Lee Kemp — I know he won state his second year of wrestling. It took me seven years to freakin’ win a national title. I’m not exactly breaking all the records.”
He continued: “Imagine what I’d look like if I didn’t give up so many points. That’d be cool to watch.”
Moody averaged 12 points per match out in Vegas, a strong showing by most measures. But what Iowa wrestling coach Tom Brands first mentioned when asked what he saw was Moody’s mental toughness throughout the two-day event.
Specifically, Brands pointed to Moody’s final three matches as an example.
'Smart wrestling in critical situations'
In the quarterfinals against Stanford’s Brandon Dallavia, Moody trailed 6-0 in the second period and was down three with 30 seconds left — and came back to win, 7-6.
In the semifinals, Moody trailed again, facing a 6-0 deficit in the first period and a 7-3 hole with 40 seconds left in the match. A takedown, gut wrench and step out led to a 9-7 win over Virginia Tech’s Mekhi Lewis.
In the finals, Moody led 8-0 with 65 seconds left, but held off Tuttle’s Dustin Plott to win, 8-6. And all of that came after Moody trailed 9-0 to Michigan’s Layne Van Anrooy in the round-of-16 before storming back for a 21-11 technical fall.
“There was smart wrestling in critical situations,” Brands said. “I know Jeremiah Moody wants to be a good wrestler, and sometimes, you can have all the desire in the world, but if you’re out there and things get away from you and you let that affect the rest of the match, that’s when things unravel.
“Things didn’t unravel like they sometimes do, and when they did, he was able to arrest it. That shows maturity and calmness and growth in the areas he needs to grow in.”
'I'll celebrate when I win a world title'
Those traits helped Moody to a national title last month, and will be necessary if he is to crack Iowa’s starting lineup in any capacity moving forward. Moody believes he’s getting closer. He’s adopted the philosophy of Brands and his twin brother, Terry, who both know a thing or two about winning.
“It’s like, yeah, you want to celebrate winning a national title, but winning a world title is a three-step process, and I’m one step through it,” Moody said. “The next step is winning two matches in Rochester. Maybe it takes three. It doesn’t matter.
“So it’s more like just part of the process. I’ll celebrate when I win a world title — for like a day.”
Now that’ll be something he’ll never forget.
Cody Goodwin covers wrestling and high school sports for the Des Moines Register. Follow him on Twitter at @codygoodwin.
JEREMIAH MOODY AT IOWA
2015-16: 19-6 – redshirt year