Freight train hits the floor
Coenen takes aim at state wrestling placement
Cassville’s Zach Coenen is used to hearing the “freight train” chants during football season, but this week, the senior is taking his bulldozing talents to Independence and taking aim at dominating the 220-pound bracket at the 2021 MSHSAA Wrestling Championships.
On Feb. 27, Coenen earned a sectional title with an ultimate tiebreaker win over Osage’s Connor Arrowood. The victory earned Coenen (25-3) a first-round bye at state. In the quarterfinal round, he will face the winner of Central (Park Hills) senior Austin Carver (25-8) and Fulton junior Josh Dunmire (33-5).
“I’m really excited,” Coenen said. “I’ve been looking forward to this since the beginning of the wrestling season. Obviously, I expect to get first place, and I think I can do that. I want to go out there and wrestle hard each match and see what happens.”
Coenen is no stranger to high-level prep competitions. In only his second year wrestling last year, he finished fifth in the state at 195 pounds. He has also played major roles in the last two Wildcat football teams, finishing state runners-up and state semifinalists in the past two years, respectively.
“I feel like I’ve learned so much, [compared to wrestling at state last year], when it comes to technique, and I have gotten a lot stronger.”
Nathan Fortner, Cassville wrestling coach, said Coenen’s potential on Thursday is as high as he wants it to be.
“If he opens up at state, he will be a different kid than in any of his matches before,” Fortner said. “The special thing about Zach is his grit and will to win. In a match knotted 0-0, I would put all my chips in on him. He always finds a way to win.”
Fortner said that attitude was on clear display in the sectional tournament, as Coenen held on for the ultimate tiebreaker win to get the gold.
“Zach has been in three of four sudden victory matches this season,” Fortner said. “When things get tough, one kid breaks, and it’s usually not Zach.”
Coenen said he has been working in the last two weeks on his stamina, as he is expecting some longer matches at the state level.
“I’ve been trying to get into better shape so I’m able to wrestle whole matches without getting tired,” he said. “I need to be able to wrestle just as hard when I’m tired because I think there will be some close matches, and I have to find ways to win if there’s a 1- or 2-point difference.”
Fortner said Coenen has also been working in situational wrestling.
“We’ve done a lot of one-on-one training with him, wrestling every day and doing live-go’s with him,” he said. “We’ve been really working on the little things. Zach is an amazing athlete. I’ve been going at him, and Coach [Ben] Glidewell has been going at him, and we’ve been putting him in different situations and making him work out of them.”
One different situation this year will be off the mat, as Coenen is the only Cassville wrestler competing on Thursday. Last year, he was one of four Wildcats at the Championships.
“It might be a little weird not having the guys there, but I will be fine and focused no matter what,” he said.
Fortner said that’s where some of Coenen’s prep postseason experience will come in handy.
“That will absolutely benefit him,” Fortner said. “Last year, he lost his first match, then won four in a row to place.”
Coenen said he expects to lean on his experience in big moments, as well.
“I think it will help me because I know what to expect and have been in big crowds and big games,” he said. “That atmosphere also really motivates me.”
Fortner said if he knows his senior, motivation will be aplenty.
“Zach is laser focused and a true gamer,” he said. “Hopefully, he solidifies a spot on the podium.