Iowa's Carter Happel looks to make claim for starting spot

Happel wins first three matches and reaches 141 quarterfinals at Midlands

HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. — Carter Happel knows what is at stake and what is expected.

He is competing in his first big-time college wrestling tournament and the 141-pound starting job for the University of Iowa.

Happel produced an impressive start, dominating his first three matches of the 55th Annual Ken Kraft Midlands Championships on Friday at Sears Centre Arena. Happel opened with a technical fall, a pin and major decision to reach the quarterfinals.

“I’m kind of battling for a spot right now,” Happel said. “I’m just going out there, putting points on the board, scoring team points and doing the things coach wants to see. Go out there and put it all out on the line. Those three bonus-point (matches) is huge.”

Happel was seeded 12th in a bracket that included teammate Vince Turk, who won his first two matches and dropped a decision to Indiana’s third-seeded Cole Weaver. Happel continued momentum that included a dual victory over Maryland’s ranked Ryan Diehl, who was seeded fifth but lost to Lizak.

Besting Midlands opponents and vying for a starting spot is intertwined.

“It goes both ways,” Happel said. “I want to win and if I win the tournament it will take care of itself on the competition in the room part of it. Coaches are looking for people to put themselves out there in big tournaments like this (and) big matches. Coming off a big win at Maryland and taking a break, coming here and performing well, so far, my confidence is up. See what it brings.”

Happel looked sharp, scoring 18 points in the first bout and earning a 10-2 major decision against Penn’s Jacob Lizak to close the first session. He also built a 7-2 lead before pinning Air Force’s Lenny Petersen. Happel said he felt good, coming back from break and keeping his weight down.

An established routine is important to success.

“It makes you bulletproof,” Iowa Coach Tom Brands said. “It makes you surer of what I can accomplish that I don’t have the distractions that are derailing me.”

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Midlands certainly won’t be the end-all and say-all in deciding the starter, but it will go a long way in

“We don’t know who the best guy is yet (at 141),” Brands said. “He’s certainly asserting himself, but you have to have completion. You have to go to the end. You have to go to the end of the match and he’s doing that. Now, you have to go to the end of the day and we’re on the right track. And, then you have to go to the end of the tournament and then we go to the end of the season.

“We have some good guys there. He’s definitely picking it up.”

l Comments: (319) 368-8679; kj.pilcher@thegazette.com

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