Kinea Moore is a soft-spoken and polite teenager whose friendly smile reveals a set of braces.
According to Tobey Alvarez, she is also a bully.
He means it as a compliment. Alvarez is Moore’s wrestling coach at Boca Ciega High School. He used the term to describe how the sophomore overpowered opponents to capture the Florida High School Athletic Association state championship.
While girls occasionally wrestled against boys in the past – with two BCHS girls earning college scholarships in the sport – this is only the second year that the FHSAA has sanctioned girls-only wrestling, Alvarez said. All females compete together in a single classification.
Moore wrestled in the 235-pound category, the highest weight class. But she was about 40 pounds below that standard while many opponents were right on the border.
So she didn’t have the typical struggle of many wrestlers to maintain a certain weight each week before a meet.
“I eat whatever I want,” she said with a smile during an interview with The Gabber at school. Her coach confirmed that her weight situation gives him significant peace of mind going into each meet.
Giving the Mat a Try
Alvarez has coached wrestling for 23 years at Boca Ciega and Moore is his first state champion.
She went out for the team last year, the first year with official girls wrestling, as a freshman. She had zero experience. Moore’s only previous athletic participation was swimming, she said.
But some family members convinced her to give the mat a try. “They said I should try it because I’m strong,” she said.
Three dozen or so young women from around the state would likely agree. Moore compiled a 41-8 record this season.
As a freshman she qualified for the state tournament but missed the end of the season after dislocating her shoulder in a match. She needed rotator cuff surgery and the 2022-23 season was just starting by the time she recovered.
Moore had little to no indication of how well we would do when the state meet started.
“All of her opponents were new, which was a good thing,” said Alvarez, who pointed out that all of her losses during the season were to two specific wrestlers. “She went out with a blank slate.”
Beating the Odds
Moore defeated an opponent from Orlando, who was one of the favorites to win the title, in less than two minutes. She then dominated another wrestler who was favored to reach the state semifinals.
The semifinal match was the toughest of the tournament, going into four overtimes against an opponent who was more than 30 pounds heavier and very near the weight limit. After winning that one, Moore pinned her opponent in the championship round in less than one minute.
“It was surreal in the moment,” Alvarez said of seeing Moore atop the medal platform. “It meant a lot. It was not only my first state champion, but the second in the history of the school.”
The girls’ program is still in its infancy but Alvarez is getting them to buy in at BCHS. He had 36 girls on the team this year along with just over 40 boys. They practice twice a week during the offseason and participate in some tournaments, although Moore’s injury prohibited her from doing that last year.
She is not the only elite athlete in her family, however. Moore noted that among her cousins are Shaquem Griffin, Shaquill Griffin, and Bernard Reedy – three Lakewood High alumni who have played in the NFL in the past few years.
Needless to say, she had no idea two years ago that she would be sitting for a newspaper interview with a half-dozen or so medals draped across her lap. But Moore says she enjoys the sport and is looking ahead at possibly being a collegiate wrestler.
As for how she is handling the extra time in her schedule now that the season is over, she shared her favorite pastime to stave off boredom: “I eat.”