Tiger Wrestling starts season with new leadership from a familiar face

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Senior Bradyn Tate puts up another 6 points with a pin over Cole Beezley at 138 lbs. Crystal Brown / CNO

CARL JUNCTION, Mo. — The Carthage Tiger Wrestling Team headed into the 2023-24 season opener Tuesday night with a new face at the helm.  The team’s first contest at Carl Junction high school saw Nate Kelly, Carthage alum and former assistant coach, leading the Tigers at this year’s assembly dual that afternoon.  As Carthage’s fifth head coach with the wrestling program, Kelly follows in the footsteps of his mentor, Coach Kenny Brown, who retired after his 21st season back in March.  A tradition Brown started between the two teams, CJ and Carthage alternate gyms to hold an afternoon meet, allowing more students to watch.  While the Bulldogs emerged victorious from this year’s competition, we spoke with Coach Kelly to get some insight into his goals for both this year, and his program in general.

Carthage News Online: As a first-year head coach, what were you most looking forward to this year?

Coach Kelly: The benefit to my situation is that I’ve been around the Carthage wrestling program, so I knew I wouldn’t be quite as overwhelmed as a first-year coach learning how things work at a new school.  I was looking forward to continuing the work of developing our wrestlers into better people who will make a difference in their community.

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CNO: What kinds of expectations do you have with your wrestlers this year?

Kelly: One thing I was excited about starting this year was our black shirt practice group.  Managerially, this was an easy way for us to split up our large practice group, and a way to signify to everyone on the team who they should look up to.  We expect this group of wrestlers to execute the technique we practice every day, as well as demonstrate the traits of a Carthage wrestler.  We expect our wrestlers to be Consistent, Accountable, Resilient, Tenacious, Hopeful, Authentic, Gracious, and Empowered.

CNO: What were some of the things that you learned from Coach Brown that have helped you now as a head coach?

Kelly: The most important thing I learned from Coach Brown was that the role of coach includes a whole variety of hats (though literally, Coach Brown is well known for only one type of hat).  As team manager, his organizational skills have been tough to match.  As role model, I strive to build meaningful relationships the way he was able to.  And as practice coach, he helped me develop tools to break down moves and positions.

CNO: Give us a little background history of your wrestling career and how you got interested in the sport.

Kelly: I started wrestling, pretty reluctantly, when my dad forced me to join, but soon loved going to practice and being with my friends.  For several years, my biggest accomplishment on the team involved something called the “Sportsmanship award,” which was basically just given to the kid who would get pinned and still be smiling. When we moved to Carthage in junior high, I began taking wrestling more seriously.  The support of my family and teammates helped me develop into a competitive wrestler.  In high school, I qualified for state all four years, placing sixth one year and second twice.

CNO: Carl Junction put out a fairly experienced team this year – what things do you feel like your team needs to work on before the next dual?

Kelly: Considering the circumstances, we are happy with where we ended up.  We came in to the dual with a lot of younger guys and we are still in the process of teaching our system of wrestling.  We will just continue learning and growing.

CNO: Who are some of the new faces on this year’s coaching staff?

Kelly: Edxel Morales and Nathan Morris joined us on the boys’ side, and Shelby Swinehart with the girls.  Edxel and Shelby both wrestled for Carthage and Nathan wrestled for Columbus.

CNO: What were some of your team’s highlights in the CJ Dual?

Kelly: I was proud of how some of our younger wrestlers like Danny (Elias-Lopez,125 lbs.) stepped up to fill spots in our lineup, as well as seeing moves we’ve been working on in the practice room.  I also enjoyed seeing the mindset we’ve been developing, like Alexander (Salas-Marquez, 190 lbs.) confidently attacking his cradle.

CNO: How can members of our community support your team this year?

Kelly: Come out to watch our duals…you might even catch a free shirt when one of our wrestlers gets a pin!  Offer words of encouragement and support to our wrestlers and coaches.  Consider donating to our fundraiser or having your business sponsor our team.  Shirt sponsors are over for this year, but we can get you set up to be on our shirts next year.  Our youth team is still accepting sponsors for their local tournament in January.  Contact Coach Kelly if interested.

CNO: When is your first home meet?

Kelly: We wrestle next Tuesday in the main gym versus Webb City.  We have combined this dual with the junior high team, so it’s sure to be a packed gym!  That dual will be our only home dual in December other than our Holiday Dual Tournament, but there will also be 3 home duals in January.

CNO: What are your goals for this year?

Kelly: 1) 20 or more wrestlers in the “black shirt” (varsity caliber) practice.  2) Team dual winning percentage of 75% or better.  3) 3 or more academic all-state wrestlers.  4) Recognize 5 or more athletes each week for demonstrating the Carthage Wrestling mindset

Junior Ayden Nye secures the pin for Carthage over CJ’s Camdon Kunkle at 132 lbs. Crystal Brown / CNO

106: Tanner Putt (CARTHAGE) over Zane Gunnett (CARLJCT) (Fall 0:28)

113: Caden Groom (CARTHAGE) over (CARLJCT) (For.)

120: Carter Foglesong (CARLJCT) over Danny Lopez-Elias (CARTHAGE) (Fall 1:14)

126: Drake Richardson (CARLJCT) over Wyatt Hole (CARTHAGE) (Dec 7-6)

132: Aydan Nye (CARTHAGE) over Camdon Kunkle (CARLJCT) (MD 14-2)

138: Bradyn Tate (CARTHAGE) over Cole Beezley (CARLJCT) (Fall 1:31)

144: Dylan Huntley (CARTHAGE) over Brenden Berry (CARLJCT) (Fall 5:12)

150: Kale Trosper (CARLJCT) over Joseph Justice (CARTHAGE) (Fall 3:10)

157: Aaron Dillingham (CARLJCT) over Cole Tournear (CARTHAGE) (Fall 0:26)

165: Dexter Merrell (CARLJCT) over Lenny Teo (Escobar) (CARTHAGE) (Fall 1:39)

175: Marcus Lopez-Durman (CARLJCT) over KJ (Kenneth) Pickering-Cornett (CARTHAGE) (Fall 0:51)

190: Alexander Salas-Marquez (CARTHAGE) over Josh Cassatt (CARLJCT) (Fall 4:35)

215: Tony Stewart (CARLJCT) over David Recinos (CARTHAGE) (Dec 6-1)

285: Blake Starks (CARLJCT) over (CARTHAGE) (For.)

You can catch the Tiger Wrestling team in action this Tuesday, December 5th, at Carthage High School in the main gym at 5pm, in a dual against Webb City that includes both schools’ junior high teams.

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