Kyle Troutman: Questions worth asking

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

After 12 hours of covering Class 2 state wrestling action on Thursday, I found myself in the back corner of a Culver’s asking some of the most hard-hitting questions of my journalism career.

Cassville’s wrestling program emphatically rewrote its history book in Independence, with Annie Moore becoming the first ever state champion for Cassville, girls or boys, on Tuesday, then Zach Coenen following up her performance with the first ever championship for the boys on Thursday.

I met Coenen and Coach Nathan Fortner at Culver’s because Coenen wanted to celebrate with some ice cream (possibly a new tradition I’ll touch on later), and I still had to do my post-championship interviews.

I asked all the cliche questions you have to ask — how does this feel? What does this mean for the program? Where does this rank on your list of athletic accomplishments?

The events of the week, however, afforded me the opportunity to ask a few more questions, both of Coenen and Moore, which they each handled gracefully.

First, I asked Coenen the big one — Did Annie steal your thunder with her championship on Tuesday?

“Maybe a little bit because hers was two days before mine, but I’m happy for her,” he said. “When Fortner started this program and for it to be where it is now is amazing.”

Coenen also conceded Moore’s path was a bit prettier than his own, as she pinned all three of her opponents to win her title, and he won each of his matches in overtime tiebreakers.

“Annie pinned her way through the tournament, and that looks a lot better than three overtimes,” he said. “I was so excited to be a part of this, and my pride in Cassville and the school is high, so I feel amazing.”

Moore’s first question from me on the topic was equally as pungent, possibly the greatest question I have ever asked an athlete — how did it feel to be Cassville’s first wrestling state champion for exactly one day?

“I just wanted to win, so I don’t really care it was only for a day,” she said. “I feel Zach’s was a lot more stressful, though. His matches were more intense and crazy to watch. We wrestle completely different, and it’s cool to watch his style compared to mine.”

My first question to Fortner about his champions was two-fold — who did it better, and who causes you more stress as a coach?

“No one stole anyone’s thunder, but it is funny that Annie went pin-pin-pin and her matches were so wild, and Zach went overtime-overtime-overtime and his matches were so tactical,” Fortner said. “Today, [Thursday], Zach was more stressful, but Annie was too on Tuesday. Sometimes I don’t know whether to say yes, yes, yes, to what she’s doing or say no, no, no!”

As far as who celebrates better, both champions chose a sweet treat in victory, with Moore electing to take the team to the Cheesecake Factory on Wednesday and Coenen bringing everyone to Culver’s after his win.

“Annie probably celebrated better because she’s insane, and Zach is more mellow,” Fortner said. “Annie also loves the attention, which is something we all love about her.”

Coenen did not tempt fate at the Cheesecake Factory either, waiting until his tournament was over before celebrating with sweets.

“I didn’t get any cheesecake,” he said. “I think I just got some chicken Alfredo. I had to save my celebration. But, cheesecake does sound good. We might gave to go back tomorrow.”

As fun as it was for the Cassville squads last week, it was equally as fun for me to cover them. While I know wrestling is a storied sport, I had never actually watched it until I took over sports writing duties for the paper this year. In my mind, a wing was what you serve at gameday parties, a hook is what pirates wear, and a cradle is what you put a baby in.

People have told me, especially my predecessor, that wrestling is unlike any other sport. At its heart, it’s an individual sport, but at the prep level, the team aspect adds another layer to the excitement.

While Moore was the only placer for the Lady Wildcats, the team only took our wrestlers and finished in ninth place. Their future is bright, and Fortner is excited for the years to come.

“This is a big step in the right direction, especially with only having the boys program for five years and the girls for two,” he said. “We’ve had a state medalist every year, but fourth place was our highest finish before this week. I hope this beings out more kids and more interest in the program.

“This week shows if you put in the work, anything can be done, and these kids have paved the way for everyone else to be successful.”

Moore understood the gravity of the accomplishment, as well.

“If my kid goes to school at Cassville and sees my name, that’s pretty cool,” she said. “And, other wrestlers down the line will see what we’ve done this week, and that I’m the first girl champion. I hope it will motivate them. I think this whole week has set the program up for success now and shown people what we can do.”

If last week is any indication, Cassville will keep climbing the wrestling ladder, and, since I am now hooked on the sport, I am just as excited as they are to see what the next few years will bring — hopefully continutin the tradition of consuming lot more cheesecake and ice cream.

Kyle Troutman has served as the editor of The Cassville Democrat since 2014. In 2017, he was named William E. James/Missouri Outstanding Young Journalist for daily newspapers. He may be reached at 417-847-2610 or

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