By Brock Sisney (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
CASSVILLE — The Cassville Wildcat and Lady Wildcat wrestling teams both have created high expectations in fifth-year head coach Nathan Fortner.
The Wildcats return four state qualifiers and one state medalist, while the Lady Wildcats return three state qualifiers.
The Lady Wildcats have an influx of talent with six freshmen expected to break the lineup.
“We have many athletes returning to varsity positions with another year under their belt and they had a good offseason challenging themselves to get better and putting in the work,” Fortner said. “The team will be anchored by Zach Coenen and Gabe Hunter, who are the seniors that will lead this team. I have high expectations for both of them. The returning starters had a taste of varsity last year and should have gained some confidence wrestling a tough schedule the previous year.
“High expectations for our girls team this year. The incoming freshmen have a lot of experience. Look for them to make some noise.”
The Wildcats have 12 returning starters — sophomore Kurt Deaver at 106 pounds, sophomore Edgar Perez 113, sophomore Ahkilleus Arguelles (120), sophomore Matthew Whittenburg (126), Hunter (138), sophomore Jake Anthony (145), junior Cutter Hicks (152), junior Ethan Fuchs (160), sophomore Brennan Cielenski (170), senior Logan Tolbert (195), Coenen (220), and junior Garrett Kritz (285).
Fortner said that Dallas Johnson, Wyatt Alexander, and Jadon Ewing are competing for varsity spots and have a shot at earning a varsity role.
Coenen medaled at state last season and took fifth at 195 pounds in Class 2 with a tie breaker against Cameron’s Camren Hedgpeth.
It was the long way back in the 195 bracket for Coenen after he lost his opening match to Oak Grove’s Zander Brinegar, but he won a sudden victory against Sullivan’s Carter Dace, won a 8-3 decision against University City’s Dariuan Pointer, and won a 4-3 decision against St. Charles West’s Alex Meyer in the wrestlebacks to earn a spot in the consolation semis and a rematch with Brinegar.
Coenen — a standout in football with a commitment to NCAA Division II school Pittsburg State (Kansas) — finished the season 34-14 overall and placed second in the Big 8 and fourth at district.
Arguelles, Hunter, and Tolbert round out the quartet of returning state qualifiers — Arguelles at 120, Hunter 138, and Tolbert 195. Tolbert unfortunately took a medical forfeit from an injury he incurred at districts, Hunter lost both his matches, and Arguelles’ season ended in the second wrestleback.
Overall, Cassville finished in the top 35 at state, eighth at district, and sixth in the 14-school Big 8.
The Wildcats open their 2020-21 season Dec. 8 at home against Carthage and Miami (Oklahoma). Their remaining dual schedule includes Big 8 foes McDonald County and two-time defending Class 2 state champion Monett at home and traditional Class 1 title contender and two-time defending Big 8 champion Seneca on the road.
Tournaments for the Wildcats are in Bentonville (Arkansas), Springdale (Arkansas), Monett, Branson, and Seneca. Seneca also hosts the Big 8 Championships this season.
The Lady Wildcats, meanwhile, return a trio of state qualifiers in junior Kelsey Harris and sophomores Annie Moore and Kailey Atherton, as well as junior Riley Burnett.
The Lady Wildcats’ six freshmen are Zoey Stanton, Bri Gordon, Audrey Gosvener, Haley Roark, Faith James, and Taylor Glidewell.
Moore qualified at 103 last season, Artherton 115, and Harris 120.
The Lady Wildcats open Nov. 21 at the Har-Ber Tournament in Springdale and they have six overall competitions before the Big 8 Tournament in Reeds Spring.