Wrestling brings many thanks to Cassville
New program provides special blessing to athletes, coaches, administration
It is a Wednesday evening and 16 athletes assemble around Brian Barbee, interim wrestling coach.
The coach gives the players simple instructions -- it is time to run.
A smattering chorus of groans come from the athletes, who for the last two hours have been introduced to, and then put into practice, a host of new wrestling moves.
Barbee does not hesitate to correct the tired attitude of his wrestlers.
"Guys, matches are won in the third period, by the athlete in the best condition," he said. "I know you have worked hard, but now is when we train to be ready for those third period wins."
The pep talk struck the desired chord, and the wrestlers picked up the pace as they ran circles around two new mats.
It is usually this time of the year when Americans are asked to stop and give thanks for the many blessings that they have.
This is also true in the sporting realm. A year ago, the idea of the Cassville school district adding a wrestling team was only a dream of a few dedicated athletes and parents.
However, a lot can change in a year, and this holiday season, there are more reasons for athletes to be thankful than ever before.
The wrestling story began three years ago, according to Cassville Superintendent Richard Asbill. A group of parents wanted the school to add wrestling, but the school was worried about the program viability. Then, former Athletic Director David Large negotiated a compromise with a group seeking to add wrestling at Cassville.
The compromise, in short, said the district would consider a high school program if a viable youth organization was created to promote the program and help establish a base of athletes.
The parents upheld their end of the bargain, and in turn, the district fulfilled its terms.
According to now-Athletic Director Doug Martin, the full rollout of the wrestling program will take two years, and only junior varsity will be offered this winter. Varsity competition will begin in 2016-2017.
"Our goal is to compete in five junior varsity tournaments and five dual type events [this year with junior varsity]," Martin said. "We will not, however, host any events this year."
Martin said Cassville would be able to wrestle at districts in 2016-2017.
"I am excited about the prospects with this sport and what it brings to our students," he said. "I am thankful that we are now able to offer a new avenue for our athletes that previously did not exist.
"Additionally, being able to work with an enthusiastic group of parents, and help this process along, was great as well."
Chad Butler, a board member of the Wildcat Takedown Club, Cassville's youth wrestling program, attended Wednesday's practice and was willing to help in any way possible.
"I'm thankful that we live in a small town where the school board is willing to listen to its parents and what they are asking for," Butler said. "The other thing I think you'll see in the next two years is the benefits of the our wrestling program on the football team and other sports."
Barbee believes there is no finer sport in the winter than wrestling.
"It is a great sport for anyone," he said. "You combine the physical nature of football with the cardio workout of basketball. These kids would not be participating in any sport if it wasn't for this program."
Of the 16 athletes in the gym on Wednesday, experience was short, but enthusiasm was high.
Jaynen DeWitt, a junior, saw wrestling as a something that could be fun.
"I am active in martial arts, and I think this program can help me," DeWitt said. "I watched my little brother wrestle at youth tournaments last year and thought that this would be a fun sport.
"I didn't think that I'd get a chance to wrestle. You'd hear that the school was going to do it, and then you'd hear they weren't. When they finally offered us the opportunity, I was the first to sign up."
To assist Barbee, the district has hired Ethan Davis, a three-time state champion at Monett who compiled a 171-2 record as a Cub and was a four-time high school All-American. Davis wrestled at Northern Illinois University and was selected as the 2010-2011 National Wrestling Coaches Association Missouri Outstanding Wrestler.
Dewitt, along with the coaches, knows success will not happen overnight. Until success is found, the new Wildcat grapplers will keep running those conditioning circles, in the hopes of one day running circles around the competition.