Lady Wildcats clinching medals

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Wrestling team wins 2 of 3 tournaments as a team

In only its second year of official varsity status, the Cassville girls wrestling team is on track for some big accomplishments — and soon.

This year, the team has wrestled in the NWA Tournament at Bentonville West (Ark.), the McDonald County Tournament and the Diamond State Tournament at Springdale Har-Ber (Ark.), taking third in the first tourney and winning the last two.

“I’m expecting big things from this group this year, and especially next year,” said Nathan Fortner, Cassville wrestling coach. “They are a fun group to coach. “This year, we’ll have districts, sectionals and state, and we’ve set our goals high. All our girls want to make it to state, and the three who went last year are set on getting on the podium.”

Cassville’s program has grown exponentially since its introductory season in 2018, when now-junior Kelsey Harris was the only participant. In year two, she was joined by Annie Moore and Kailey Artherton, both sophomores.

The trio qualified individually for state, and their success was part of what led to a marked interest in girls wrestling.

“Those three from state last year only have one loss each this year,” Fortner said. “That success last year helped garner interest, plus, we have a lot of freshmen this year.”

Harris, Ryleigh Burnett and Makenzi Dilbeck are juniors; Moore and Artherton are sophomores; and the rest of the squad are freshmen, including Zoey Stanton, Breanna Gordon, Hailey Roark, Taylor Glidewell, Audrey Gosvener and Faith James.

“All of them are medaling right now,” Fortner said. “Faith has been quarantined twice and has not been able to wrestle yet, but we should have her back in the next week or two, and she’s one of our better wrestlers.”

Fortner said the key to the group’s success has been teamwork.

“They all work hard and they listen well,” he said. “This sport is new for most of them, but they are picking it up quickly. They work very well together, are in different weight classes and are dominating right now, which makes it fun.”

The Lady Wildcats’ success began with the bronze team performance in Bentonville, with Artherton, Moore and Harris getting firsts; Roark and Glidewell earning seconds; and Stanton and Gordon winning thirds. James, Burnett and Dilbeck were missing weight classes, and Gosvener wrestled up a weight class and competed hard. Artherton also earned the Outstanding Wrestler award at the tournament.

On Dec. 28, 2020, at Har-Ber, the team added a second team title, with Moore (108 pounds), Harris (116 pounds), Artherton (124 pounds) and Burnett (165 pounds) taking top honors. Gordon took second at 124, Roark second at 132 and Stanton third at 108.

“We were even missing four girls, so we would have really hammered down if they were there,” Fortner said. “That was a mix of vacation, COVID issues and one having to work.”

Fortner said a benefit to the team is the state experience and girls that were managers for the boys team in years past.

“Kelsey and Kailey have been our leaders, and they only have one weight class between them,” Fortner said. “Kelsey was my only girl that first year, and Kailey was an eighth-grader whose brother Keaton was a state placer for me. Both had been managers for me, so the’ve been around Cassville wrestling for years. They have grown to love the sport and they do a great job leading.”

With their success this season so far, Fortner said the expectations are high.

“In the future, we’ll have all these girls coming back, so we will only get better,” he said. “I’m hoping they will place at state as a team soon, if not win it all.”

The next action for the Lady Wildcats will be on Jan. 9, when they head to the Seneca Tournament.

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