Impact Award winner Moyer works tirelessly to advance wrestling

By
Updated: May 14, 2022

Photo: Mike Moyer has served as executive director of the National Wrestling Coaches Association since 1999.

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Note: This story was first published in WIN Magazine’s Annual Awards Issue, which was printed on May 6. Other award stories in this issue included features on the Malvern Prep’s Nick Feldman (Junior Hodge Trophy winner), Michigan’s Sean Bormet (Dan Gable Coach of the Year), Mat Talk Online’s Jason Bryant (Journalist of the Year), Air Force’s Wyatt Hendrickson (Schalles Award), Ryder Rogodzke of Stillwater, Minn. (Junior Schalles) and WIN’s State-by-State High School Wrestlers of the Year. Click here or call 888-305-0606 to subscribe to WIN Magazine.

By Mike Finn

Don’t tell Mike Moyer he has an impossible job as executive director of the National Wrestling Coaches Association.

The way this native of West Lawn, Pa., sees it, things did not have to be perfect for him to reach his place in wrestling.

 “I didn’t realize until I started coaching that I’m left-handed,” recalled Moyer, who coached on the junior college and NCAA Division I level at George Mason before he became the first full-time director of the NWCA. “I was doing a clinic one time and a coach tapped me on the shoulder and said, ‘Did you know you teach as though you are left-handed?”

Moyer shared the funny story to illustrate the point there can be multiple paths to success; often times it’s just a matter of figuring things out. It’s hard to know if not knowing what side he was stronger at had anything do with his actual success on the wrestling mat; dating back to when his father William led him to three Pennsylvania state tournament appearances before he later competed in three NCAA Division I Championships for the current West Chester State University.

Mike Moyer will be among eight inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame on June 3-4 in Stillwater, Okla.

And he also jokes that a lack of teaching skills from his college days as a P.E. major may have had something to do with a career that’s led to him to promoting wrestling.

“You were graded on how proficient at the skill you were as opposed to how well you could teach the skill,” Moyer recalled. “That’s where my sales career started because I was just a mess. I said I’d rather have a physiology class as opposed to golf because I was afraid I’d never get out of there.”

But the reality is that Moyer — who will be inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame this summer in Stillwater, Okla. — never puts himself ahead of others while serving as head of the National Wrestling Coaches Association.

 And for Moyer’s tireless efforts working to advance the sport, he has been named WIN’s 2022 Mike Chapman Impact Award.

Mike Chapman, who founded WIN Magazine, the Dan Gable Museum/Wrestling Hall of Fame and the Dan Hodge Trophy story, has written countless columns and over 30 books.

“There are many heroes of our sport who go about making a difference through the commitment and excellence of their work, but are often overlooked, and Mike Moyer fits into that category,” said Chapman, the founder of WIN, the Dan Hodge Trophy and the Dan Gable International Wrestling Museum in his hometown of Waterloo, Iowa.

“(Moyer) has made a huge difference in the sport by his indefatigable efforts to increase the number of schools and participants, and I am very pleased to see his name added to the list of Impact winners.”

Moyer did coach well in the past, especially between 1985-95 at George Mason in Fairfax, Va., where his teams won two Colonial Athletic Association championships while producing 27 national qualifiers and four All-Americans.

But that also was at a time when college wrestling was dealing with programs being dropped, primarily because of the Title IX dilemma, and wrestlers dying because of training methods of the past.

“We lost over 500 programs between 1970 and 1999 and wrestling was getting crushed,” recalled Moyer. “The other crisis wrestling had was that three wrestlers died because of weight-loss incidents. Wrestling realized we needed more full-time people to help deal with these matters.”

In announcing Moyer’s welcome to the Hall of the Fame, the following was written:

“Under his leadership, the NWCA membership has grown from 1,700 to more than 10,000 and the organization has established 260 new intercollegiate wrestling programs, including more than 90 women’s teams, in the last decade. Moyer established the NWCA CEO Leadership Program that has trained over 700 college coaches and more than 1,300 high school coaches on best practices. He has also overseen and facilitated fundraising initiatives that helped establish several Division I men’s and women’s programs, creating hundreds of coaching opportunities for men and women. Moyer has spearheaded establishing new chapters for the Wrestlers In Business Network, an organization that connects wrestlers and provides career opportunities for college wrestling graduates. He also oversees a vast majority of NWCA committees that function for the purpose of strengthening high school and college wrestling for males and females.”

But Moyer will also be the first person to say that the sport — especially coaches — need to do even more to promote wrestling as colleges still find excuses to drop the sport.

“We’ve come a long way, but now is not the time to take our feet off the gas,” Moyer said. “It goes back to the opportunity to innovate and evolve. Now we have different forces like NIL (Name, Image, Likeness). It seems like we continue to have challenges just from the nature of the today’s college sports. We just try to stay ahead of them.”

Before becoming the NWCA’s first full-time director, Mike Moyer coached ten years at George Mason (1985-95) and led the Patriots to two Colonial Athletic Association titles.

The NWCA does not have a large staff and Moyer is not the lone decision maker in the organization, which has a formal board. He realizes he must find a way to get wrestling coaches, who tend to do their own thing, on the same page.

“We try to do our best in a facilitator role where we bring in all of the important perspectives that we need to problem solve,” Moyer said. “We now have leadership groups and the communication and transparency that we have is better than ever. We try to bring all the stakeholders together and the different viewpoints that you need to problem solve.”

Moyer’s father passed away about four years ago, enough time to see all his son has accomplished; his father had a career as a biology teacher and wrestling coach, even though he had never wrestled.

“He would be proud,” Moyer said. “Most people are in coaching because they were inspired by a coach they had. I had great coaches at every level.”

Moyer said he was shy in high school; something Moyer believes changed because of his involvement in wrestling.

“The one thing that I appreciated the most about wrestling is that it helped me get comfortable with being uncomfortable,” Moyer said. “And there are few things that would make me more uncomfortable than standing on a wrestling mat, across from a formidable opponent. So, whether it’s public speaking or whatever, it’s easy to reflect on those moments compared to what I’m doing today.”

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