Sport: Wrestling & MMA
Born: December 28, 1981
Town: North Bergen
Steven Mocco was born December 28, 1981 in North Bergen. Big, quick and agile, Steve played football, studied martial arts and wrestled as a boy and won state and national titles in his weight class as a high school freshman and sophomore. Steve spent his junior and senior years at Blair Academy, a boarding school in northwestern New Jersey with a heralded wrestling program.
Steve won two more prep state and national titles at Blair. His signature move was the foot sweep, a maneuver that takes great strength and coordination. Steve also was a three-time national junior champion, and was named High School Wrestler of the Year in 2001. He finished his prep career with a 216–1 record and also won a judo championship.
Steve fielded college scholarship offers from almost every major wrestling program,. He settled on the University of Iowa to work with coach Jim Zalesky. Zalesky had succeeded the legendary Dan Gable as coach of the Hawkeyes, and guided the team to NCAA titles in 1998, 1999 and 2000.
Steve was unhappy at Iowa and created a stir by transferring to the school’s arch rival, Oklahoma State. In 2005, Steve was crowned NCAA champion at 285 pounds and won the Dan Hodge Award as college wrestler of the year. Steve ran his collegiate winning streak to 85 matches before he was pinned by Minnesota’s Cole Konrad in 2006. Konrad later pinned Steve in the 2006 NCAA title match. In the fall of 2006, Steve joined the Oklahoma State football team and got into 5 games as a defensive lineman.
Steve continued his freestyle wrestling career after college, competing nationally and internationally. At the 2008 U.S. Nationals, he was beaten by Tommy Rowlands. However, a few weeks later he defeated Rowlands in the Olympic Trials to earn a slot on the team at 120 kg (264 lbs.). Steve’s quest for a gold medal ended with a loss to Fardin Masoumi of Iran. In 2009, Steve won several international meets including the Pan American Games, where he pinned Michael Neufeld of Canada to win gold.
At 30, Steve was past his prime by the time the 2012 Summer Games rolled around. After failing to qualify for the U.S. team, he decided to turn his attention to Mixed Martial Arts. At first, he got involved as a coaching consultant for Bigfoot Silva in the run-up to UFC 146. Steve signed with American Top Team and had his first bout in November 2012. He won his first four matches before dropping a decision to Smealinho Rama in 2014. He won his next match, in the spring of 2015, against Juilano Coutinho. Steve lives with his family in Florida and now coaches at American Top Team’s academy in Coconut Creek.