‘C4’ ready to explode
Cassville girls relying on experience at state
Every time a Cassville girl is on the mat, spectators can guarantee to see the rest of the Lady Wildcat contingent as close to the squared circle as possible, cheering their hearts out for their teammate.
That abundance of team chemistry is one of the factors contributing to the Cassville girls wrestling team, for the second year in a row, taking four grapplers to the 4th Girls MSHSAA Wrestling Championships.
Donning the spandex for the Lady Wildcats will be junior Annie Moore, at 115 pounds; senior Kelsey Harris, at 110 pounds; junior Kailey Artherton, at 120 pounds; and sophomore Faith James, at 135 pounds.
“We are ready for this tournament,” said Nathan Fortner, Cassville wrestling coach. “We have the toughest district in the state with the most ranked girls. It’s tough to get out of. We know the venue and the schedule of state, and we are managing weight.”
Cassville has a fair history of appearances at state, but Annie Moore’s state title at 112 pounds was the first placement for a Lady Wildcat, and the first champion in Cassville wrestling history.
Fortner said the team is hoping for greater success this year, and that team chemistry plays an important role.
“All year, I have loved the chemistry of this girls team,” he said. “If they are not wrestling, they are on the deck cheering, and no one else does that — it’s really cool. We will have to be extra loud at state.”
Fortner said the only thing potentially blocking the Lady Wildcats’ paths to glory is themselves.
“We talk about the mental aspect a lot,” he said. “You can have doubts. And when you wrestle every day, it’s hard to realize that you deserve to be here. That can lead to sometimes focusing too much on an opponent.”
Moore said on her behalf, it’s another mental aspect weighing on her mind.
“I do feel a lot of pressure being the defending champion, because everywhere I go, people know me as that,” she said. “I don’t want to let them down, but I know stuff happens.”
Moore said her sights are set on one wrestler in particular, Park Hill’s Angelina Vargas, who defeated her in a 10-0 major decision at the Wonder Woman tournament this season.
“I’m excited, but there’s a really good girl in my bracket,” Moore said. “[Vargas] beat me at Wonder Woman, and she’s just a freshman, so the kids coming up are making the competition so much better.”
Artherton said her biggest opponent may have changed recently.
“Before districts I would have said the Lebanon girl, but I went three periods with her,” she said. “Another girl from Harrisonville is one I will be looking out for.”
James’ biggest obstacle aligned with her coach’s assessment.
“It’s myself,” she said. “I go stalk people’s trackwrestling profiles and then let it get in my head. I know I can beat them, but it gets to my head.”
Harris said finishing matches will be a key for her.
“My biggest obstacle is getting through every match and not slowing down in the third period,” she said. “I need to keep the same momentum in every match.”
All four girls agreed one thing will help them — experience.
“It’s my third year at state, so I know what to expect,” Artherton said. “I don’t think I will be as nervous because I know how it’s going to be with the crowd and the pressure.”
“In my freshman year, I bombed my first match,” Moore said. “The environment is scary, but I think being under the spotlight in the championship last year will help calm my nerves this year.”
“I think it will help me because I’ve only been in a couple big tournaments, and they were nerve-wracking,” James said. “Having experience will lessen those nerves.”
Harris, as a senior, missed last year’s state tournament by one match, and she’s banking on her sophomore state experience to carry over.
“I can’t wait to experience state as a senior,” she said. “Districts meant more to me. When I came out in my second match against the Knob Noster girl and fought off that head and arm, that gave me momentum for the rest of the tournament.”
The 4th Girls MSHSAA Wrestling Championships will be held Feb. 17-19 at Mizzou Arena in Columbia.