Redshirt freshman wrestler Kollin Moore gets his hand raised after defeating Penn State’s Matt McCutcheon at 197 pounds on Feb. 3, 2017 at the Schottenstein Center. Credit: Nicholas McWilliams | Sports Editor

In just his first year of competition, Ohio State’s Kollin Moore upset Minnesota’s Brett Pfarr 15-11 to capture the Big Ten wrestling title in March. Two weeks later, Pfarr returned with a vengeance and eliminated Moore from a chance at a national championship in the NCAA semifinals.

Moore’s title hopes might have been dashed by his loss to Pfarr, but it showed the world that Moore could be a title contender in the 197-pound weight class with steady improvements

The loss was one of only four for Moore during his freshman campaign.

Going into his second season, Moore, along with his coaches and fans, is hopeful he will elevate his game to the level of a national champion.

That goal might be closer than anyone has realized. Going into this season, there are no losses on Moore’s record to any wrestler still in the NCAA. Both Pfarr — who handed Moore three losses last season — and the reigning 197-pound champion, Missouri’s J’Den Cox, have graduated.

With those two gone, the 197-pound division could be Moore’s for the taking.

But even a preseason No. 1 overall ranking from FloWrestling, a spot on the U.S. Second World Junior Team, a Big Ten title and conference freshman of the year honors haven’t changed his vision for his growth as a wrestler.

The Burbank, Ohio, native was among the NCAA’s best on the offensive last season. Moore captivated many wrestling fans with his 33 wins last season. This included six pins, with perhaps the most impressive coming against Virginia Tech’s Jared Haught in last season’s NCAA consolation finals.

But it’s not just the pins that showed off his offensive skill. Moore averaged 18 points per match in bouts that didn’t end in a pin.

“Finishing, I think, is always going to be a big problem for me,” Moore said. “I shoot a lot, so I need to make sure the effort I spend on shooting pays off into takedowns.”

Even if Moore doesn’t show it off the mat, head coach Tom Ryan knew when he first saw Moore, he could be one of the nation’s best.

“He wasn’t the biggest recruit in the country,” Ryan said. “I thought he was, but he was a one-time state champion.”

Redshirt freshman Kevin Snyder, a teammate and sparring partner to Moore and brother of Olympic Gold-medalist Kyle Snyder, had high praise for Moore’s offensive prowess and relentlessness when attacking.

“There’s people that are really offensive, but Kollin is offensive to the point where — he’s not making stuff up, it’s stuff he knows how to do — but when you watch it you’re like ‘How did he just end up doing that?’” Kevin Snyder said. “It’s pretty inspiring.”

Moore’s ability to improvise and put himself in favorable positions no matter his predicament was something Ryan said he hadn’t seen since watching Soviet wrestler Arsen Fadzayev 30 years ago.

“One of my favorite wrestlers of all time hit this drag to a trip … It was the sickest move I’d ever seen,” Ryan said. “When I saw him [Moore] wrestle in high school, I saw him hit it, and I knew it would work at the next level.”

Moore’s humility might be something he picked up during his upbringing less than an hour away from Cleveland. He enjoys playing the underdog in his matches, something he alluded to when speaking about his relatively quiet recruitment. But that hasn’t stopped him from reveling in his ranking for this season.

“I’ve never really been the top dog, and that’ll be different this year,” Moore said. “I’m excited to take on that challenge … because I know they’re going to be gunning for me.”

As would be expected from the redshirt sophomore, Moore said his goal for the season is to clean up his game, but he said the national championship — taking place in Cleveland this season — would be huge in putting his city on the wrestling world’s map.

“I take a lot of pride in coming from Norwayne [High School] and Burbank and putting that name on the map,” Moore said.

Moore might prefer to let his performance on the mat do the talking for him, but his coach didn’t lack confidence talking about the wrestler from northeast Ohio.

When asked who the best wrestler in the NCAA is at 197 pounds, Ryan didn’t hesitate with his answer.

“Kollin Moore.”