It’s ‘party time’
Lady Wildcats bring home silver, sixth-place medals at state
Two words were spoken by the Cassville girls wrestling team more than any other at the trip to the 2022 MSHSAA Wrestling Championships — party time.
An excitement on the surface and a coping mechanism below it, party time was a key factor in the Lady Wildcats winning a record two medals and getting its second-ever medalist.
Annie Moore, at 115 pounds, came up just short in the championship bout, falling in a 10-2 major decision to Park Hill’s Angelina Vargas. A junior, Moore now has a state championship and a state runner-up under her belt going into her final season.
Faith James, a sophomore at 135 pounds, wrestled the most amount of matches possible. She fell in the opener to champion Paige Wehrmeister, of Parkway West, but she fought her way through three consolation matches to guarantee a medal. In the fifth-place match, she was overwhelmed by Janiah Jones, of Parkway South, losing a 10-2 major decision.
At 110 pounds, senior Kelsey Harris was only one match from medaling. After falling in the quarterfinal round, Harris picked up a 6-0 decision in the second round of consolation matches, but in the bubble match, she lost a 7-2 decision to Rose Le, of Parkview.
Junior Kailey Artherton, at 120 pounds, fell in her opening match, tweaking a knee injury sustained at districts. She decided to medically forfeit in the consolation round.
The three-day tournament for the Lady Wildcats kicked off the night before, as the team went to see Mizzou dual Iowa State. Much to their coach’s chagrin, some of the girls were wearing cone party hats.
“I kept telling them to take them off because it was embarrassing, but they would just tell me it’s party time,” said Nathan Fortner, Cassville wrestling coach. “Eventually, I just gave up.”
While the hats did not make their way to Mizzou Arena, the party time shtick had stuck. That consistency in attitude turned into consistency on the mats, according to Fortner.
“These girls are so consistent,” he said. “They were able to deal with injuries and a lot of things out of their control. It was good to see them build as a team and pick each other up when they were down. We had some good performances. Annie made it back to the title match, which is a really tough thing to do.
“Kelsey was just here for the second time and was one match away from a medal. Kailey hurt her knee in districts, and her body just didn’t allow her to compete to the best of her ability. Faith was fourth in districts and got fifth at state, and that’s really impressive.”
James said after receiving her medal that it felt good to be on the podium.
“My goal was to get on the podium, and I met that goal, so I’m really happy with that,” she said. “On Thursday, I was in a good place and not getting in my own head, but on Saturday, I did get in my head. But, I have learned here how to deal with that better.”
That’s where party time really comes in.
“When I am about to wrestle, it helps me loosen up mentally and remember to have fun and not put so much pressure on myself,” she said.
Fortner said the girls’ methods of preparation may be a little unorthodox at times.
“The girls are different than the guys,” he said. “They are a little more independent and relaxed. Faith talks about anything but wrestling before her matches and performs at a very high level, maybe even better if she’s not talking about the matches. Kelsey and Kailey like to do planning and scenarios before matches, and Annie does her own thing. She was actually putting on eyeliner right before the final because it made her feel ready. For the guys, Jake Anthonysz will just sit on the mat before a match and it looks like he’s meditating.”
Harris said she was pleased overall with her performance, despite being outside of the medals.
“I feel like I did really well,” she said. “I performed a lot better than in my sophomore year, and it wasn’t as nerve-wracking because I had been there.”
In her bubble match, Harris’ shoulder got extended, and she had to battle through the injury for the rest of the match.
“My shoulder is still a bit sore,” she said on Monday. “After that happened, I got really mad it was hurting, so I actually wrestled harder, but I just couldn’t recover from it.”
Artherton said her injury at districts was a huge obstacle to overcome at state, and the risk of further injuring her knee was not worth it in the end.
“It was an emotional week trying to figure out if I would wrestle or not,” she said. “I didn’t want to mess up my senior year. I sat in the stands for a bit after that first match deciding whether to push through or forfeit. We concluded it would be easier and probably better to forfeit. If not for my knee, I think I could have been on the podium.”
The group of wrestlers Cassville took to state, four girls and three boys, was the most ever, and the higher numbers were a help to the athletes.
“The girls and boys teams have not been as close, but we have grown closer this year,” James said. “With only three other girls, it’s good to have the three boys to help hype us up. We can always use extra hype-men.”
“I love that my team was here. We had such a good time,” Moore said. “We had our party time and ate a lot of Taco Bell — a lot. All of us had a good time, and it’s kind of a stress reliever. We will definitely carry on party time. It’s like a code word now.”
“It really felt good to have that many of us there,” Harris said. “The boys were really supportive and wanted to watch all of our matches. I thought we made the most out of state. State this year is my favorite memory from wrestling at Cassville because we had that many there, and four placed, and being in the top eight is really good.”
“It was awesome having us four girls and seeing them succeed,” Artherton said. “I’m ready for next year because we will have a lot more.”
Fortner said for the girls and the boys, the up-and-comers will make some noise.
“We will only lose Kelsey, and the rest are coming back, and we have some young ones coming up that will be good. We will be very good next year. I think we will have multiple placers and possibly vie for a team trophy.”
James said now that she has one medal, the only place to go is up.
“I am super motivated,” she said. “I plan to do freestyle and Greco-Roman to get my strength up. I am also going to play soccer to help with my footwork and cardio. I was on the podium this year, so next year, my goal is the finals.”
Artherton said she’s also ready to get back in the action.
“I want to heal and work in the summer to do better next year,” she said. “I want to make a comeback my senior year.”
Full results from the 2022 MSHSAA Wrestling Championships include:
Kelsey Harris (40-9) place is unknown and scored 5.0 team points.
• Champ. Round 1 — Kelsey Harris (Cassville) 40-9 over Kadance Coffin (Parkway South) 35-9 (fall, 3:40)
• Quarterfinal — Jailyn Ebert (Ft. Zumwalt North) 37-14 over Kelsey Harris (Cassville) 40-9 (fall, 3:33)
• Cons. Round 2 — Kelsey Harris (Cassville) 40-9 over Josey Crisp (Diamond) 27-8 (decision, 6-0)
• Cons. Round 3 — Rose Le (Parkview) 30-5 over Kelsey Harris (Cassville) 40-9 (decision, 7-2)
Annie Moore (51-3) placed 2nd and scored 23.5 team points.
• Champ. Round 1 — Annie Moore (Cassville) 51-3 over Alayna Roling (Blair Oaks) 34-12 (fall, 1:41)
• Quarterfinal — Annie Moore (Cassville) 51-3 over Kaydence Grass (Liberty North) 22-15 (fall, 1:43)
• Semifinal — Annie Moore (Cassville) 51-3 over Callie Bergthold (Southern Boone) 41-8 (technical fall-1.5, 3:30, 17-1)
• 1st Place Match — Angelina Vargas (Park Hill) 41-1 over Annie Moore (Cassville) 51-3 (major decision, 10-2)
Kailey Artherton (44-9) place is unknown and scored 0.0 team points.
• Champ. Round 1 — Alexis Rowland (Poplar Bluff) 38-8 over Kailey Artherton (Cassville) 44-9 (fall, 2:32)
• Cons. Round 1 — Kendra Bliss (Washington) 50-5 over Kailey Artherton (Cassville) 44-9 (medical forfeit)
Faith James (50-9) placed 6th and scored 12.0 team points.
• Champ. Round 1 — Paige Wehrmeister (Parkway West) 51-0 over Faith James (Cassville) 50-9 (fall, 1:27)
• Cons. Round 1 — Faith James (Cassville) 50-9 over Ariana Finn (Timberland) 27-11 (fall, 1:37)
• Cons. Round 2 — Faith James (Cassville) 50-9 over Bailey Bridges (Francis Howell) 30-16 (fall, 1:54)
• Cons. Round 3 — Faith James (Cassville) 50-9 over Annelise Obermark (Washington) 42-10 (Injury, 1:15)
• Cons. Semi — Amitira McNack (Clinton) 48-2 over Faith James (Cassville) 50-9 (fall, 1:15)
• 5th Place Match — Janiah Jones (Parkway South) 44-5 over Faith James (Cassville) 50-9 (major decision 10-2)