Going for the gold

Wednesday, February 12, 2020
The Cassville girls wrestling team, all three members, qualified for the state tournament next week in Columbia. From left: Coach Nathan Fortner, Kelsey Harris, Kailey Artherton, Annie Moore and Coach Chris Fortner. Contributed photo

Cassville punches 3 tickets to state meet

It was one of the best post-mach speeches that Cassville wrestling coach Nathan Fortner ever had to give as he looked at the three members of his Lady Wildcats wrestling team.

Fortner said the group of Annie Moore, Kailey Artherton and Kelsey Harris were all smiles as they each punched individual tickets to the state championship tournament in Columbia Feb. 20-22.

“I really think it was a momentum finish for us,” Fortner said. “It literally went boom, boom, boom — that quick — and we were like, we got all three in. Annie won her match and we were all celebrating, and there was a match in between and it was a quick in, and Kailey won the match by pin, then Kelsey got in.”

One thing Fortner told his girls was not to ever let any boy wrestler tell them that qualifying for state is easy.

Unlike the boys division, there is just one classification in the girls bracket. The Class 3 district featured 52 teams and 250 wrestlers, and several brackets had pigtail matches.

A “pigtail” match is a match which is appended to the first round matches. For example, if there are 17 contestants to be entered on a 16 person bracket, the 17th wrestler may be “pigtailed” onto the bracket.

“A lot of people don’t know how tough a district there is,” Fortner said. “We had pigtail matches just to get in the bracket. Kailey lost her first match and then had to win her next five elimination bouts just to get to state.”

Fortner said he could not be prouder of his girls.

“These girls have shown up all year long and worked hard,” he said. “Kelsey wrestled last year as a freshman. She went to some summer workouts and has jumped levels. Kailey is the sister of Keaton [Artherton], who was our fourth-place finisher last year. Annie wrestled in middle school last year.”

Moore, a 103-pound freshman, has a unique quality that serves her well.

“Annie is mean and is freakishly strong for her size,” Fortner said. “I joke with her that hopefully she can break into triple digits in weight. She is strong and athletic.”

Artherton, a sophomore at 115 pounds is just a natural competitor.

“I think it is in the Artherton blood,” Fortner said. “We had her brother, and she is just like him. She doesn’t quit and finds ways to win tough matches.”

Harris, a 120-pound freshman, was described as a technically sound wrestler by her coach.

“She loves to wrestle,” Fortner said. “These three girls love to compete and that serves them all well.”

Fortner said he trains the girls the same way he trains his boys team, and there is no difference in his expectations.

“The girls do the same training the guys do,” Fortner said. “I think the girls break down tournaments more than the boys do by looking at the brackets and who they will face. At this stage, my message to them is just go out and have fun.”

Cassville will find out the state opponents later this week when brackets are released.

Follow the Cassville Democrat Facebook page and www.cassville-democrat.com/sports for live updates from the state tournament next week.

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