McCartneys, Avallones make vital contributions to Pawhuska wrestling

Robert Smith
Pawhuska Journal-Capital

Just the other day, Landon McCartney and her younger sister, Marion, placed in OSSAA regional wrestling competition for Oklahoma female wrestlers. Kelcie Avallone, a junior high school female wrestler for Pawhuska, recently placed fifth in state tournament competition.

These tidbits of school athletic news are evidence of the continued progress of the wrestling program at Pawhuska Public Schools, and they are also testimony to the vital roles played by two local families -- the Avallones and the McCartneys.

Each family currently has three wrestlers in the Pawhuska program. The McCartneys account for three members of the new girls varsity wrestling team, and the Avallones account for two junior high female wrestlers and their son on the high school boys team.

The Avallones are rightfully proud of the pioneering role played a few years ago by Karissa Avallone in setting an example for girls to follow. Her father, Tony Avallone, notes that Karissa was the first girl to wrestle at the varsity level in Pawhuska, the first girl to letter in wrestling in Pawhuska, the first girl to win girls state in Pawhuska, the first girl to be named All American in Pawhuska, the first girl to receive a wrestling scholarship in Pawhuska, and was an Oklahoma high school champion 2010, 2011, 2012 while in Pawhuska. She has gone on to become a high school wrestling coach.

“Wrestling was in our blood," said Tina Avallone, who says the sport has been good for the confidence and self-esteem of her children. She also ties the centrality of the sport to her family's experience to Native American cultural influences. In the case of the Avallone family, that specific Native American influence comes through the Choctaw tradition.

Tina Avallone points out that scores of U.S. colleges and universities have started wrestling programs for women, and lots of scholarships are being awarded to promising girl wrestlers.

"We want them to be looked at as a wrestler," Tina Avallone said, emphasizing the concept that one's prowess and dedication as an athlete should be more important than one's gender.

Tony Avallone provided details about the Avallone children currently in the Pawhuska wrestling program. They are:

-- Anthony Avallone, a 15-year-old ninth-grader, who has been wrestling for one year. He is a member of the Choctaw Nation and placed fifth out of 12 at conference in 2021;

-- Kylee Avallone, a 14-year-old eighth-grader, who has been wrestling for two months. She is a member of the Choctaw Nation;

-- Keclie Avallone, a 13-year-old seventh-grader, who has been wrestling for two months. She is a member of the Choctaw Nation. She has placed fifth at state.

Tina Avalllone notes there is a wrestling mat at the family home.

Not to be left out are the McCartney kids. A year ago, Landon McCartney and Marion McCartney qualified for the state tournament, along with their brother, Tristian, who has since graduated.

This season, Tennessee McCartney joined her twin, Landon, and younger sister, Marion, as three members of the new varsity girls wrestling team.

The wrestling trailblazer among the McCartney sisters has been Landon Marie "Lou" McCartney. She was a 2020 state tournament placer, was a champion at the 2020 Carmen Classic, and the first girl to receive the Mikey Lynn Award at the Carmen Classic for the fastest pin of the tournament out of boys and girls. She placed first in the 2021 girls regionals.

“Landon is making a trail for other girls in Pawhuska to follow,” says her mother, Danielle Cass. Cass notes that Landon makes a list every year of the goals she wants to achieve.

“It is a tradition for the people in my family, going back to my grandfathers and great-grandfathers and probably before that,” Cass said in regard to wrestling. “It’s a family tradition. It’s totally a family tradition."

Cass said she thinks wrestling teaches foundational life lessons.

“I think you get a lot of good ethics and integrity, " she said. "Nothing is given easily. In wrestling, you have to earn it. It’s a good way of life.”

Cass said she has a large den, and it's not unusual for the room to be cleared to make room for wrestling. The impulse to wrestle is strong enough that she has sometimes had to instruct her kids that she wants them to cease wrestling in the house during holidays such as Christmas.

“It takes a determined, strong-minded, strong-willed person to be a wrestler," Cass said, explaining that her kids regularly make dietary choices and other decisions on the basis of the likely effect of those decisions on their athletic fitness.

“I’m extremely proud of the young women that they are," Cass said.

She said her daughters have a particular goal when it comes to making the state tournament and working to advance to the final round. The tradition is that one's coach dresses up formally to attend a finals match, Cass said. Thus, her girls have the desire to "Put Legg in a tie," she said. The reference is to Pawhuska wrestling coach Austin Legg.

Like Tina Avallone, Danielle Cass cites Native American cultural influences as a key to understanding the family's interest in and dedication to the sport of wrestling.

“We are, and have always been, a wrestling school," Cass said of Pawhuska Public Schools. Cass said she had two sons who wrestled, and now her the three daughters. In addition to Landon McCartney, the McCartney girls now wrestling for Pawhuska include:

-- Tennessee Chouteau McCartney, also known as "T." This is her first year to wrestle. She has also been active in softball and was the 2018 offensive player of the year. She played on two district champion teams;

-- AydDan Marion "Bear" McCartney, who was a 2020 Carmen Classic champion and a 2019 junior high state runner-up. She earned a second place in recent OSSAA regionals competition.