Happel wins national title after 10 matches in three days
August 03, 2013 · Jake Krob
Most athletes only dream of a state championship and a national title.
Carter Happel has them both.
And he's only 16.
Happel, who earned the Class 1A, 120-pound title as a freshman last season for the Lisbon Lions, has added national championship to his accolades. He took the title at 132 pounds in the USA Wrestling Cadet National Freestyle tournament in Fargo, N.D., July 17-19.
"It feels pretty good," said Happel, who's calm and modest about his accomplishments.
The tourney in Fargo is considered the toughest in the country for youngsters. Happel faced a bracket of 79 wrestlers, and battled in 10 matches over three days - half of them came in Day 1.
"I was less and less nervous as the tournament went on," he said.
In the first day, Happel earned a technical fall or fall over all but one opponent. On Day 2, he earned technical falls over all three of his foes.
The final day of the competition, in his ninth match of the tournament, Happel found his stiffest competition. Happel found himself down 13-4 (one point away from a 10-point difference technical fall) against Justin Demicco of Ohio.
"I just kept chipping away at him," Happel said.
In fact, he ended up dominating Demicco. Boosted by a move that resulted in eight points, Happel ended up winning 25-17. He was just one of two of the 1,007 Cadet wrestlers in the entire tournament to score 25 points in one match.
"I was pretty pumped," Happel said.
That landed him in the finals against Jonathan Ross of Pennsylvania. Happel dominated the championship, earning a 10-0 technical fall.
Happel, the son of Dean and Dawn Happel, is a self-motivated athlete. In fact, he said he entered the national tournament without studying a single one of the other young men in his bracket.
Instead, he focused on training.
He started wrestling in kindergarten, then began entering tournaments in first grade. He said he began honing his technique in elementary school, when he'd attend practices at Cedar Rapids Prairie.
In junior high, he said, "I really started to think I wanted to get into it seriously." That's when he started thinking about being a state champion.
His father was a three-time state champion at Lisbon. Although Happel credits his dad for help with technique, he said wrestling doesn't dominate the family of 11 (there are five boys and four girls; Happel is the second oldest and the oldest boy).
Happel said his dad is there to help, his mom is his "biggest fan," and the rest is up to him.
In the off-season, Happel has been wrestling three times a week with Big Name Wrestling, a club that trains in West Branch and is organized by former Hawkeyes Joey Slaton, Dylan Carew and Tyler Clark. Happel lifts three days a week, and runs on the off days. And he'll spend hours watching You Tube videos of world class wrestlers, including former Lisbon Lion and Iowa Hawkeye Ryan Morningstar, now an assistant coach at Iowa, and current Hawkeye head coach Tom Brands.
Additionally, Happel said he's motivated by his fellow Lisbon wrestling team, including coach Brad Smith, who was at the national tournament. About 50 Lisbon wrestling fans gathered at the Lisbon home of Darin Williams to watch Happel's national championship match live. Happel saw a picture of them watching, and said he was grateful for the support.
Freestyle wrestling is the international style, and is different from folkstyle (the style used in high school). Happel said wrestling freestyle allows him to get more experience in the offseason and see new opponents.
As he prepares to enter his sophomore year at Lisbon - likely at 132 pounds - Happel said he has one goal.
"I want to win state again," he said.
Although he dreams of wrestling in college and beyond, this 16-year-old takes it all in stride.
"I'm not thinking of that right now," he said.
Carter Happel's Nationals Results
Rd 1 - Happel tech fall Michael Peterson, Ill., 16-6
Rd 2 - Happel fall Donnie Leuer, Minn., 5:50
Rd 3 - Happel dec. Ben Reagan, Wis., 15-9
Rd 4 - Happel fall Timothy Edmonson, Texas, 2:19
Rd 5 - Happel tech fall Jake Hartman, Penn., 10-0
Rd 6 - Happel tech fall Lucas Ortiz, Penn., 10-0
Rd 7 - Happel tech fall Will Clark, N.C., 12-1
Rd 8 - Happel dec. Robert Lee, Wis., 12-6
Rd 9 - Happel dec. Justin Demicco, Ohio, 25-17
Finals - Happel tech fall Jonathan Ross, Penn., 10-0