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Missoula Big Sky's Izzy Moreno overcomes obstacles on and off mat in search of second wrestling title

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Posted at 7:42 PM, Feb 08, 2023

MISSOULA — Izzy Moreno is wrapping up a decorated high school wrestling career for Missoula Big Sky, and it'll conclude this weekend at the state wrestling tournament in Billings.

Moreno is in search of his second state title after he won at 132 pounds as a sophomore in 2021. But this year, the senior is coming in off of a second-place finish at 145 from a year ago, so the goal is simple.

"My goal this year is to win it this time and not get second," Moreno said with a laugh.

And he's using that finish as motivation in this final go.

"Just keep on motivating me to push through losses and use a loss to fuel me and fuel my motivation, so losing, it sucks, but I always take it as like it's just a building block to help me achieve what I want to achieve," Moreno said. "It kind of just fuels the fire and I use it as motivation to work harder."

Now wrestling at 160 pounds, Moreno has blown through the competition this year as one of the top wrestlers in the state.

It's a sport he was born into with his father, Big Sky wrestling coach Rick Moreno, and their vast family tree of decorated wrestlers. Once Izzy decided to pursue the sport, the duo have run with it as they prepare for their final meet together as coach and athlete.

"The development of him growing up, and the process and the trials and tribulations that we went through with it, it's just a good feeling," Rick Moreno said. "You catch me on Monday or Sunday (after state) and I might be a different person and bawling and all of those kind of things, but right now we're just laser-focused and we're out here to get a mission done."

"I wouldn't be anywhere without him," Izzy Moreno added. "He's been with me the whole process and he's taught me everything I know in the sport and in life, and he's shaped me into who I am today, and I would really be nowhere without him."

While challenged by those on the mat with him, Moreno faces another battle outside of the wrestling room, with Type 1 diabetes. As a high-level athlete, it's a disease that can be difficult to navigate in a sport where weight cutting and diet are so intertwined with the actual competition.

"It's definitely hard in like practice and competition, it's kind of hard to predict what my blood sugar is always going to be and so it will get low and it will get high, and I'll have to take a break and stuff every now and then," Moreno explained. "It's definitely difficult and frustrating. I really think it's helped honestly in the aspect of I'm different than everyone else, and other people don't struggle with it like I do, and so in some ways it motivates me."

And he's overcome it every step of the way.

"Izzy's faced many challenges throughout his life and I know he'll embrace them," Rick Moreno said. "He'll struggle with them but he'll embrace them and I know he'll turn out OK in the end. I'm proud of him. It's awesome to be his dad and awesome to be his coach. It's been fun."

At the season's end, Moreno will parlay his high school career into an opportunity wrestling at the Division I level with a number of schools recruiting him to the next level. However, Moreno is waiting until after the season to fully focus on his commitment and the schools in his top tier of choices. He told MTN Sports he's had about 10 D-I schools reach out to him, with his top choices narrowed down, but would rather keep that under wraps until the season has concluded so he can focus.

"It's been a goal, but now that I have it, it's kind of stressful, but I'm always grateful for it and blessed for it so I try not to get too stressed about it," he said. "But definitely weighing the options of each school is really hard because I don't want to make a wrong decision, and that's kind of why I still haven't committed right now is I want to make the right decision."

"It's been awesome. I've always told him unfortunately you have a dad that feels like he's good at his job and knows about wrestling," Rick Moreno added laughing. "Outside of that I don't have a lot to offer you, and so for my kid to embrace wrestling and want to go be a part of that journey with me, it's something that resonates with me, connects with me, and now he does and so we share those things together and it's just been awesome. I'm going to miss it."

But before he commits to that next step, there's one last bit of business to attend to this weekend.

"It's been my goal to be a four-timer, but then I lost my freshman year, came back my sophomore year and then got second last year so being a two-timer is just kind of like the next best thing," he said. "So going out with a bang is definitely a big thing for me."