New era coming for Wildcat athletics
History to be made with wrestling team debut
Walking 1,000 miles may seem like an journey that is too hard for most to undertake, as on the path there will be deep valleys, steep hills and unknown pitfalls.
However, as Nathan Fortner explained to his wrestling team, the journey of a 1,000 begins with a single step, and you cannot worry about what is miles down the road, but should focus on taking the step right in front of you.
Fortner gets the opportunity to place his stamp upon the Wildcats wrestling program and set that tone.
"I love this sport and am passionate about this sport," he said. "I just want the kids to enjoy it as much as I did in school. Wrestling helped me with training for other sports. I'm excited for the opportunity to help our athletes grow."
This season will mark the first official varsity wrestling season for the Wildcats.
The wrestling story began four 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 took two years, with only junior varsity being offered last winter and varsity opening up this season.
Being so new to the Wildcat athletes, Fortner said the program has some unique challenges.
"We are starting at square one," Fortner said. "We drill the basics and fundamentals and then follow that up with more basics and fundamentals. But I expected that."
Fortner said the ultimate goal is to have state qualifiers, but this season would not be determined by wins and losses. Instead, individual growth will be the barometer of success.
"We started out with 30 kids, so there is some excitement," he said. "My goal is to see them go out there and compete each match and just get better. You can't focus just on if you'll win or lose, that takes away from your training focus. If you get better each time you take the mat, the wins will take care of themselves."
Fortner prepped at Seneca High School, where he was a four-time medalist and finished fifth, fourth, third and second. He did help the Indians win a state title as an assistant coach.
Fortner will be assisted by Ethan Davis this season. Davis and Fortner have past history that dates back to their high school days.
It was Davis, a three-time state champion at Monett that defeated Fortner for a state championship.
"We are good friends and he still gives me a hard time about that," Fortner said. "That's alright, because every time I need to demonstrate a grip or hold, I can make Ethan lose. In all seriousness, he's a great guy to have on staff and his knowledge and experience are invaluable."
Fortner said his realistic goal for the Wildcats is to have a state qualifier in the next three years.
"Southwest Missouri is a tough wrestling area," Fortner said. "If you qualify for state out of our district, you have a great shot at earning a medal in Columbia. Getting better is a process. We are young and still gaining experience. I look forward to the challenges and to the season."
Cassville opens its new program with a double-dual against Seneca and Carl Junction at Seneca on Dec. 6.