In his bid to wrestle in the Olympics, Old Boy Alex Moore 2014 has learned that sometimes the greatest challenges don’t take place on the mat.
On Feb. 20, Alex defeated Ontario wrestler Clayton Pye to secure the 86-kg spot on Canada’s Olympic wrestling team. But the struggle that brought him to the threshold of Olympic competition has been one of the longest and toughest fights of his career.
For a 23-year-old, Alex’s career has already been a long one since the days when, as a baby, he accompanied his father, Selwyn House Wrestling Coach Rob Moore, to the Montreal Wrestling Club, where Alex has since trained all his life.
“It’s hard to put an age to when I started wrestling, because I’ve been around it so long,” Alex says. “I can’t remember my first practice, but my first competition was when I was 11 years old.”
Since he started in the sport at Selwyn House, Alex’s wrestling career has been a steady climb from one accomplishment to the next. Anyone following school news over the years is familiar with his string of wins and medals, from GMAA and Canada-wide competitions to representing his country at Pan-American and world championships, to wins at the World Wrestling Clubs Cup and the Youth Olympic Games. In addition to Quebec and Canadian events, he has competed in Cuba, Brazil, China, Israel, Puerto Rico, Slovakia, Finland, Hungary and many other countries.
By 2019, with five perfect performances in a row at the Nationals, Alex had become one of the highest-ranked wrestlers in Canada, and had his eye on the Olympic podium.
At the Under-23 World Championships in Oct. 2019, however, he sustained a knee injury that required reconstructive surgery in Feb. 2020, with a year of rehab afterward. The setback resulted in his being dropped from the list of Canadian candidates for the Tokyo Olympics, scheduled for June of that same year.
When the COVID-19 pandemic postponed the Olympics to 2021, it bought Alex some time. He doubled down and worked even harder to recover from the injury. Still, he had to appeal to the Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada to take back his rightful chance at the Team Canada slot.
To resolve the dispute, Alex had to compete against Clayton Pye, a wrestler who had recently lost to an Argentinian whom Alex had beaten 10-0. Clearly, Alex was the favourite at the two-match wrestle-off on Feb. 19 in Toronto, but he had to win both matches and did not do well in the first one. Down 4-0 at the first period, he summoned all the discipline he had honed over the years and rebounded to win the first match 6-4, then dominated the second match, defeating Pye 10-0 after only 50 seconds.
“I don’t think I was mentally ready for the first match,” Alex recalls, “but I knew I had to remain calm and not fold under the pressure. It’s extremely hard to replicate the emotions and feelings of competition, especially having not competed for 15 months prior, but pushing yourself when you aren’t feeling the greatest in training is a great start.
“I made the adjustment in the second match, but I can’t let that happen in Bulgaria. I went from a 6-4 match to a 10-0 match in a matter of 20 minutes. It just goes to show how important your mind is in a sport like mine. I didn’t compete to the best of my abilities and didn’t show a fraction of how I’d been performing in practice. That being said, it was a great learning opportunity and I know what kind of adjustments I need to make to perform to the best of my abilities at the qualifier.”
Alex says he feels a lot stronger mentally since that day. “I think dealing with adversity helps build character and is a great teacher of mental toughness,” he says. “In a way, I’m almost grateful for my injury. Because of it, I’ve experienced a lot of growth, not only as an athlete but also as a person.”
Now it’s on to the Olympic qualifying matches, scheduled for April 30 in Sofia, Bulgaria. As the highest-qualified coach in Canada, as well as having been Alex’s coach from the beginning, his father, Rob, may join his son in Bulgaria.
If he wins in Sofia, Alex will be the only Canadian competing in his weight class, with Pye as the alternate.