Oak Mtn. wrestler raises bar in Alabama

Published 10:51 am Wednesday, August 13, 2008

He was one of the smallest guys from the smallest states there, but that didn’t stop rising Oak Mountain junior Tanner Moon from making his name known at the Freestyle and Greco-Roman Wrestling National Tournament in Fargo, N.D.

“Where is he from?” one college coach asked Team Alabama coach Rod Gaddy.

“Birmingham,” Gaddy answered.

“No, where did he move from?” the coach replied, thinking a kid that good can’t be from a non-wrestling region such as the south.

In 15 years, Alabama has had only five wrestlers reach All-American status in either freestyle or Greco-Roman competition in Fargo. Moon did so in both 98-pound categories, finishing second in Greco-Roman and sixth in Freestyle to become the first Alabama wrestler to be an All-American twice at the same tournament in late July.

“There are so many good kids that have gone that have never done it and some that have never placed,” Moon said. “It’s a pretty big to place, and to double All-American is awesome.”

Moon pushed his way past the defending national champion Valien Rauser in the second round of Greco-Roman competition. The win showed Team Alabama, including Vestavia’s Robert Dyer who beat Moon for the Class 6A state in February, that they can wrestle with the national powers.

“Fargo has been kind of the final frontier for Alabama. We’ve never done anything like Tanner did, and when he beat that national champion in the second round, everybody believed,” Gaddy said. “This isn’t a myth, it’s not a fairytale — it’s real.”

Moon, just like his brother Steven West, a two-time state champion at Oak Mountain, didn’t begin wrestling until seventh grade.

He was inexperienced and physically immature, according to Gaddy. But by the next year, Moon already began to show that he had a future in the sport when he took down two state champions nine-straight times.

“He’s got an uncanny mind. He sees things other people don’t see,” Gaddy said.

That ability to pick up techniques and quickly apply them to his game helped Moon reach his first state final this season and now catapult himself into the lead of Team Alabama.

“I will hold him up as high as anyone I’ve held up in our program. If you want to be successful, do what this guy has done,” Gaddy said.

Moon battled close in the Greco-Roman final against Mark Grey of New Jersey, but lost the best-of-three set, 1-1 and 4-3.

Moon hopes his success, and the skills learned by Oak Mountain teammates Davis Bagwell and Josh Greer, will help the Eagles this winter.

Gaddy believes Moon’s success will continue in high school.

“There’s no doubt in mind that he’s going to be a contender, if not the front runner, in the state tournament,” Gaddy said.