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Wrestling: Moen continues to turn heads with big goals in mind

Detroit Lakes' Jeffrey Moen is 19-0 and the No. 4 wrestler in his division. After last year's early exit at the state tournament, the senior is eager for another chance to rewrite history.

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Detroit Lakes' Jeffrey Moen grapples with LPGE-Browerville's Grady Tomford on Jan. 17, 2023 at the Ralph Anderson Gymnasium at Detroit Lakes High School.
Jared Rubado / Detroit Lakes Tribune
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DETROIT LAKES — A singular moment lives in the mind of Detroit Lakes senior Jeffrey Moen.

On Mar. 4, 2022, Moen stepped on the mat at the Xcel Energy Center for the first time in a state competition. The heavyweight lasted just over three minutes against St. Paul Como Park's Aaron Adekplovi before finding himself on his back, staring at the rafters.

Moen still thinks about that moment.

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Detroit Lakes' Jeffrey Moen smiles during his match with Fergus Falls' Paulo Carrillo on Jan. 17, 2023 at the Ralph Anderson Gymnasium at Detroit Lakes High School.
Jared Rubado / Detroit Lakes Tribune

"It sticks with me a lot, actually," he said. "Even when I don't wrestle kids who are very good, I always have this thing in the back of my head that they could catch me with something. I don't want to have that feeling again where I'm looking up at the ceiling thinking, 'What just happened?'"

A lot has changed since then. Moen, who was unranked among the 285-pounders at the end of last season in Class AA, according to The Guillotine, has skyrocketed up the poll. He's currently the No. 4 heavyweight wrestler in Class AA with a perfect 19-0 record.

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For Moen, everything is going according to plan.

"It's kind of a waking feeling for me," Moen said. "I'm finally seeing everything that I worked for in the offseason show up for my senior year."

Statewide respect is earned, not given. As a returning state participant, Moen started the season as the No. 8 wrestler in his division. His hot start landed him in the top five, with more climbing left.

"Yes and no," Moen said when asked if he feels slighted by rankings. "I always want to prove everybody wrong — That's my main goal. At this point, I'm fourth in the state. Obviously, I think I should be higher, but I need to wrestle those kids and prove myself."

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Detroit Lakes' Jeffrey Moen rolls LPGE-Browerville's Grady Tomford over on Jan. 17, 2023 at the Ralph Anderson Gymnasium at Detroit Lakes High School.
Jared Rubado / Detroit Lakes Tribune

Moen will square off with another top-five heavyweight on Friday afternoon at the Mid-State Conference meet at Lakeshirts Fieldhouse. Aitkin's Craig Ashton poses his most formidable challenge of the season so far.

"It's all I'm looking forward to," Moen said. "To be honest, I didn't know too much about my matches (on Tuesday). I'm just looking at that No. 5 kid I wrestle on Friday."

The Lakers have needed Moen to be more than just a stalwart on the mat. His leadership is counted on for a young team to succeed with a new head coach.

Moen, along with Tyson Ullyott, Cade Jackson and Cade Okeson, were honored for reaching career milestones on Tuesday in Detroit Lakes' home opener against Long Prairie-Grey Eagle-Browerville and Fergus Falls. The senior quadrant is the current cornerstone of the Laker wrestling team.

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Detroit Lakes' Jeffrey Moen wrestles LPGE-Browerville's Grady Tomford on Jan. 17, 2023 at the Ralph Anderson Gymnasium at Detroit Lakes High School.
Jared Rubado / Detroit Lakes Tribune

"It's honoring for me," Moen said of being seen as a leader. "When I was a seventh grader, and I was in their shoes, I couldn't really look at many heavyweights and say I wanted to wrestle like them when I'm older. That's what I'm trying to do. … I think I've improved a lot, especially in the mental aspect of wrestling. There were times last year or the year before where I'd have my big break, and I was down on myself. It could ruin me. I feel like I've matured a lot. I'm ready to handle that first loss if it comes."

Moen also feels embraced by his support system, especially the Jackson family.

"They're some of the biggest things that's helped me get how far I've gotten," he said. "Cade Jackson and Todd Jackson have given me a place to live when COVID started, and even this year. They help push me and tell me I can do more, even when I thought I couldn't."

Moen hopes to wrestle at the collegiate level but has unfinished business to cap off his senior season. With his early exit at the 2022 state tournament in mind, Moen aims for a chance to rewrite his most haunting wrestling memory.

"It's been the thing that's pushed me the most," Moen said of his state tournament run in 2022. "Every time I get tired, whether it's in practice or a workout and I think I can't go anymore, I think about that match at state that I know I could've done a lot better in. It just drives me to be better. … It would mean the world to me to get another chance. It's all I can think about this year. I want to go to state and make a run out of wherever they seed me. Wherever they think I'm supposed to be or where I'm supposed to finish, I want to prove them wrong."

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Detroit Lakes' Jeffrey Moen squares up with LPGE-Browerville's Grady Tomford on Jan. 17, 2023 at the Ralph Anderson Gymnasium at Detroit Lakes High School.
Jared Rubado / Detroit Lakes Tribune
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From left to right: Detroit Lakes' Cake Jackson, Tyson Ullyott, Jeffrey Moen and Cade Okeson were honored for reaching milestones at the Lakers' home-opening triangular on Jan. 17, 2023 at the Ralph Anderson Gymn at Detroit Lakes High School.
Jared Rubado / Detroit Lakes Tribune

Jared Rubado is the sports editor for the Detroit Lakes Tribune and the Perham Focus. He moved to the area in September of 2021 after covering sports for the Alexandria Echo Press for nearly three years. Jared graduated from the University of Augustana in 2018 with degrees in journalism and sports managment.
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