Top 10 sports stories of 2023

1. Girls wresting 3rd in state as team

Ultimately, the individual results were not as high as the team hoped, but the Cassville girls wrestling team made history nonetheless by bringing home the first ever team trophy, taking third in a field of 98 with 62 points. Senior Annie Moore, who entered the tournament ranked No. 1 after winning first as a sophomore and second as a junior, took third place at 115 pounds; junior Faith James, who took sixth place as a sophomore, finished second at 130 pounds; and senior Kailey Artherton and junior Hailey Roark were one win away from getting a medal. Taylor Glidewell added to the points total with one win in the tournament, rounding out the five-member squad.

2. Softball wins first district title

“We just made history.” Those four words rang out from the excited huddle of Cassville players and coaches as they were celebrating their first ever district softball title on Oct. 16, a 7-6 walk-off win over Doniphan. With two outs and the bases loaded, sophomore right fielder Naveah Johnson, was thrust into her first at-bat of the contest, hitting a grounder up the middle to send the game-winning run home. Cassville had reached the district championship game two seasons prior, falling to Logan-Rogersville in 2021 and to Seneca in 2022. The Lady Wildcats finished the season at 16-15 after falling to Fatima, who won the Class 3 state championship.

3. Chappell 6th at state, girls golf team goes for first time

A long course with difficult pin positions and fast greens presented challenges for the Cassville girls golf team at Class 3 Girls Golf State on Oct. 16-17, but that did not stop senior Avery Chappell from medaling for the third year in a row, and with her best overall finish. Chappell took sixth in the state, shooting back-to-back 85s for a score of 170. Competing as a team for the first time ever at state, Cassville finished 7th with an 863, shooting 3 strokes better on day two of the tournament. Junior Adelee Hendricks was 70th with a 228, senior Gracie Harmon tied for 71st with a 229 and sophomore Madison Robertshaw took 78th with a 236.

4. Cassville Cheer 3rd at state

Just before performing in the Small CO-ED division at state, the Cassville Cheer squad learned part of their routine would be considered illegal — so they fixed it and finished third. Along with the routine change, a key member of Cassville performed eight skills, allowing the team to score more points with higher difficulty, which was necessary due to being in the Small CO-ED division against much larger schools with more resources. Coach Victoria Henbest said next year, the squad hopes to up the difficulty level on skills to earn more points and place even higher.

5. Southwest boys hoops win district title

The Southwest boys basketball team rode a wave of belief, spurred by a Tim Knight article, to a historic moment on Feb. 24, upsetting Stockton on the road, 56-42, in the Class 3, District 12 championship in Diamond — the first for the team in 57 years. Senior Brendyn Paulsen, who scored 15 for the Trojans, said the aftermath of the win was something he won’t forget. Southwest was behind for most of the first half, but Paulsen gave the team momentum with a 5-0 run to end the second quarter. The Trojans pulled away in the fourth quarter to earn the victory and ended the season at 21-7. Earlier in the season, the Trojans won the SZouthwest Holiday Tournament for the first time in 11 years.

6. Winning seasons for Cassville fall sports

Cassville has six fall sports programs, and all saw winning seasons in 2023. The football team ended the year at 6-5, the volleyball team finished at 17-15-3, the boys soccer squad was 15-8-1, and the softball team put up a 16-15 record and won its first ever district title. In non-record sports, the girls golf team took a team to state for the first time, and senior Avery Chappell was sixth individually; and the cross country team had consistent team finishes, with senior Ethan Bohmke’s placing first in Aurora — the third seniors in in four years to do so — and junior Jadyn Williams holding off a Lamar senior to take first in the Cassville Pinkout Cross Country Invitational.

7. Wheaton softball team inaugurated into Hall of Fame

The 1993-1997 Wheaton High School softball era was a formidable force: 1993, third place in state; 1994, second place in state; 1995, third place in state; 1996, state championship; 1997, fourth place in state. At the Oct. 18 Missouri Sports Hall of Fame Fall Luncheon, Mindy (Ray) Beeson and Jessica (Renkoski) Walker and more than 30 other teammates were recognized as members of the Class of 2023. Wheaton High School has produced many dedicated athletes and countless successful teams, and Beeson, a clinical and patient safety nurse, and Walker, a nurse in cardiopulmonary rehabilitation, are a part of this successful legacy.

8. Cassville grad playing rugby at Drury

Not many athletes can pick up a sport at the collegiate level and thrive at it, but that is exactly what one Cassville graduate is doing at Drury on the women’s rugby team. Alexis Mann, a 2020 graduate, is a former multi-sport athlete for the Lady Wildcats and now captains the Lady Panthers on the pitch. A soccer and golf athlete in high school who played softball, basketball and volleyball in middle school, Mann said she found the rugby team mostly thanks to her mother. An official sport but not part of NCAA, Mann said Drury plays all kinds of other colleges nationwide. Mann said the learning curve was not hers alone, as the team has attracted a variety of participants.

9. Local athletes commit to next level

At least nine local athletes signed letters of intent this year to play sports at the collegiate level. Cassville signees include: Maci Barton, golf, Crowder College; Peter Littlefield, football (kicker), Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College; Caleb Leach, cross country, University of Missouri-St. Louis; Nic Sanders, rugby, Drury University; Akhilleus Arguelles, wrestling, William Woods University; Jake Anthonysz, wrestling, Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College; Avery Chappell, golf, Drury University; and Emerson Grossman, volleyball, Drury University. Also signing, to State Fair Community College, was Exeter softball senior Natalie Crumpler.

10. Local boy catches rare mirror carp

Over the summer, Jesse Smith, 10, of Cassville, hooked a rare catch and the biggest fish of his life. According to BillieJean Smith, Jesse’s mother, the Missouri Department of Conservation confirmed the catch is a mirror carp, a variety of the common carp developed through selective breeding and also known as the Israeli carp, commonly found in Europe. “He fought the fish for over 2 minutes and 46 seconds,” BillieJean Smith said. “Jesse hooked it just north east of Shell Knob. He also caught his very first catfish this day. It was a day filled with memories and laughs and a day he’ll never forget!” After taking photos with the mirror carp, the fish was released back into Table Rock Lake.