2021-22 Winter Preview: Nixa Wrestling

By Kary Booher (For OzarksSportsZone.com)

All of last spring and through the summer, the same question kept coming back to Nixa High School’s wrestling coach: How did the boys team pull off one of its best seasons in history?

It was certainly special – a third-place team finish in the Class 4 boys state tournament. And it was the highest finish in program history. Which is why coach Dustin Martin usually offered the same response:

“We had a decent dual season, losing six duals,” Martin said, “but you can be a great tournament team if you have some hammers.”

Fortunately for Nixa, a lot of hammers are back in the toolbox this season for both the boys and girls teams, leaving Martin pretty optimistic about what damage they can do again.

Boys team

Nixa returns 12 of its 14 starters – part of a group of 45 who are expected to be on the mats when the curtain rises for November practices.

Among them are defending state champion Zan Fugitt and third-place medalist Peyton Moore.

Fugitt, a junior, recently was ranked No. 5 nationally by Flowrestling.com following a third-place finish at the Super 32 Challenge in North Carolina. He also was an All-American at the Fargo, N.D., summer event and the United World Wrestling.

And Fugitt is only one win from being a two-time state champion. As a freshman, a technique error was just enough for his opponent to earn the title.

Look for him to compete at about 120 pounds this season.

Moore, a senior, is a three-time state medalist – state runner-up as a freshman, sixth as a sophomore and third as a junior – and was a freestyle state champion over the summer. Like Fugitt, he won the Central Ozark Conference.


“Zan is very offensive. He’s going to get points,” Martin said. “Peyton is a lot more calculated. He looks to stalk opponents.”

And, as much as eyes are now on Fugitt, Moore could draw them, too.

“He’s just kind of wrestled under the radar because he hasn’t won a state title,” Martin said. “But he’s been there competing with the best of the best.”

With Fugitt likely at 120 and Moore at 126, Nixa will be careful to keep them both on track in their weight classes in order for both to be available to score tournament points.

Another big name is John Gholson, who placed third last year at 220 pounds after winning the Central Ozark Conference. His state semifinal loss was to Kansas City North’s Xavier Doolin, a Super 32 medalist now at Northern Colorado University. That was Gholson’s only loss to a Missouri wrestler.

“He’s just a tough dude,” Martin said. “He’s not afraid to be physical, and we expect him to compete for a state title.”

The rest of the projected lineup could see sophomore Aidan Ward, junior Nate Brower and senior Dylan Webster in the lighter weights.

In the middle weights, look for seniors Cole Crahan, Alex Bewley, Porter Osborne, Connor Swensen and junior Jason Curry.

In the upper weights, other than Gholson, it could be senior Michael Turner, juniors Charles Speake, Avry Rutherford, Garrett Davidson and sophomore Brennan Carey.

Turner was a state qualifier last year, his third year as a starter. Speake wrestled heavyweight last year and recently placed second at the Fall Brawl in Kansas City. Avery looks to continue a big 2020-2021 season.

Carey transferred from Carl Junction, where he was 29-13 in varsity matches and, this summer, was a Greco-Roman state champion, freestyle runner-up as well as a freestyle and Greco-Roman Southern Plains champion.


Keep eye on Ward and Brower. Ward was 9-3 in varsity action last season, and he’s been stuck behind three of the best guys in the state in recent years in Fugitt, Moore and 2021 graduate Deagan Fugitt, a third-place finisher last year.

“In order for us to be a good tournament team, Ward and Brower need to take the next step,” Martin said.

In those middle weights, Crahan is a three-year starter and has a COC championship.



Martin isn’t sugarcoating it for his guys. Liberty High School is probably the clear-cut favorite in Class 4, with a lot of experience back from last year’s state championship team.

The hard part in wrestling is that, unlike football or basketball, it’s a challenge to knock off any top team. It would mean a majority of a team’s 14 wrestlers have a bad tournament.

But Martin doesn’t see why Nixa cannot do damage.

“Fifth place is a moot point because you don’t get a team trophy,” Martin said. “The goal is top four.”

Girls team

Martin anticipates 20 girls on the team, including 13 returning starters.

Among them are four returning state medalists in senior Ashlyn Eli, sophomore Brenya Crahan, junior Kirsten Fugitt and senior Harmony Rust.

Eli is 103-3 in her career, with state championships each of the past two seasons. She is 78-1 the past two seasons and hasn’t lost since December 2019.

“She’s a season wrestler,” Martin said, noting she doesn’t compete in the offseason.

Crahan was 46-3 last season and won a state championship at 122 pounds. She was a freestyle state champion this past summer and Fargo All-American. She is nationally ranked at No. 20.

“Where Ashlyn wrestled and took some years off and came back, Brenya has been wrestling with the boys since she was little,” Martin said. “She’s really more of a 12-month wrestler.”

Fugitt placed fourth as a freshman but was injured late last season. Rust is a two-time state qualifier, having placed sixth as a sophomore. She was 30-6 last year but didn’t qualify at the pandemic-influenced district tournament.

Other returning starters are Micah Ballew, Emily Thomassen, Addison Eli, Brittany Williams, Jordan Brooks and Katie Faulk. Freshman Callie Dupree just moved in.

This marks Year 4 for the girls state tournament, in which there is only one class.

“I think we could either win it, or not place at all,” Martin said, explaining the unpredictability in a one-class state tournament.

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