Marshfield exited Anderson and McDonald County High School with a second-place trophy –– awarded the day of –– from its girls wrestling district.
The Lady Jays climbed and finished only behind repeat district champion Lebanon with 144 points. Cassville trailed Marshfield and earned a bronze finish with 126.5 points, followed by Nixa and West Plains.
“We were happy with taking second,” Lady Jays head coach Adam Wright said. “Every girl who’s been part of our team this year is deserving of that second-place team finish, not just the girls that qualified. They all encourage one another and help us in one way, shape or form.”
A total of eight Lady Jays earned the program its first district plaque as well as a trip to sectionals on Feb. 20. Kiana Massie led the pack as the sole champion, while the trio of Rozalyn Richerson, Kylie Martin and Leanna Merrell stood in second on the podium.
Rozalyn Richerson earned her trip to sectional by beating Joplin's Rylie Ward and Diamond's Josey Crisp before losing in the finals to one-loss Annie Moore from Cassville.
At 117 pounds, Alliyah Joiner dispatched Arian Richardson of West Plains, then fell to Kelsey Harris of Cassville, and afterward Carl Junction's Shiloh Sluder in the consolation bracket.
Lady Jays 122-pounder Camryn Elliot lost to Natalie Stewart of West Plains in her first matchup, then beat Louzella Graham of Seneca before bowing out to Monett's Brooke Bluel.
Marshfield 127-pounder Rylee Wilson won her opener with Seneca's Britany Adcock but an injury prolonged her journey to qualification. She bounced back to down Hallie Crisp and later Joplin's Erika Washom to capture third.
“She got injured the first match of the day and we decided it wasn’t worth that semifinal match,” Wright said. “It was going to be a dogfight against the Lebanon girl and we decided to injury default her and have her come back on the other side, and she did what she needed to do.”
Ariaha McIllwain lost her opener to Dream Cunningham in the 137-pound division, but bounced back with a tight decision over Jersey VanDerhoef and Nixa's Kirsten Fugitt before being defeated by Cassville's Faith James in the third-place contest.
Despite losing her first match at 143 pounds, Macie James defeated Nixa's Addison Eli and Seneca's Liberty Cornell before being defeated in the third-place match.
“Of McIllwain and James, Wright said, “Both were not seeded in the top-4, so to get in and qualify they had to go in and beat the higher seed. I believe Ariaha beat the No. 1 and Macie beat the No. 3.”
Trinity Lesser (159) picked up a victory over Gisel Aragon from McDonald County but lost in the semifinals of the championship bracket. however, she met Aragon again in the third-place win and came out on top for a second time.
Massie defeated Renfro from Seneca by majority decision, then scored a fall over Cassville's Ryleigh Burnette in the final to win the 174-pound division.
“I think the last time [Kiana] beat the Seneca girl was through points, and this time the girl kind of knew what she did and it was close,” said Wright. “Kiana was on her back one time and fought hard to come back. In the final, the girl from Cassville was tough but it’s probably Kiana’s third or fourth time wrestling her. She was confident and pinned her in the first period. She wrestled really well and just keeps getting better and better.”
Though they fell short of first, the highest weights still delivered a pair of qualifiers. Martin grabbed two wins by pinfall and lost in the 195-pound final to Springfield Central’s Catherine Dutton, a returning state qualifier with just one defeat this year. At 235, Merrell earned two byes, then took out Cassville's Taylor Glidewell in short measure before losing to Mariyah Brumley of Lebanon in the final.
“They were disappointed, but lost to girls with three or fewer losses and they know what they need to do to avenge those matches if they see them at sectionals or state,” Wright said.
Asked to access the difficulty of Marshfield’s district, one of eight in the state after expanding from last year’s inaugural season, Wright said, “Girls wrestling is still new and teams change a lot, but if it’s not the toughest [district], I’d say it’s in the top-3 without a doubt. Lebanon qualified 13 girls and had seven champions...if you look at state rankings, they take up so many shots and their girls are so quality, you’re fighting for [fewer] positions. That makes it tough in itself. With West Plains, Nixa, Cassville and Branson, they all have full lineups or close to it, which is a rare thing. So they bring a lot of skill and talent as well.”
Harrisonville will host Marshfield’s sectional and will also be one of the strongest teams to suit up there.
We just want to go there and wrestle our best and take as many we can to state,” Wright said. “I do think our sectional is tough and if we can get any girls out of there, they’ll have a good chance of placing top-6 at state. I think every single one of our girls can go, but we have to stay focused and not look past it onto state.”