LISBON — Lisbon doesn’t shy away from title talk.
The Lions embrace the reestablished tradition and discuss the championship aspirations from day one, according to Hall of Fame Coach Brad Smith, who has guided them to 11 total state team titles in two tenures at the school.
The “gold” standard prevents them from settling for just another State Duals trip. The mindset separates Lisbon and other powers from other teams.
“It sets our expectations higher than others,” Lisbon senior Cooper Siebrecht said. “It gives us more confidence because that is what we’re working for. We’re not working to just get to the state tournament. Our goal is to win. We just have those higher expectations.”
The Lions will attempt to match their state title sweep from a year ago, opening with the State Duals on Wednesday at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines. Second-seeded Lisbon (24-3) faces No. 7 Woodbury Central (19-4) in the Class 1A quarterfinals, beginning at 9 a.m.
Their sights have been set for this moment, starting the season as a top contender and maintaining that status the entire year.
“We’re always focused on the end of the season,” Smith said. “These guys know what they can do.”
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The Lions' rich wrestling history is well-documented. Lisbon captured its fourth State Duals crown and 15th traditional state team title in 2017. The Lions are making their fourth straight appearance and 12th overall, advancing to the last two State Duals finals.
“We always want to win,” top-ranked 120-pounder and returning state champion Cael Happel said. “It’s a common goal around here to win every dual you’re in. We don’t like to lose, so going down to the state tournament is no different.”
Similar to last season, the Lions enter the tournament seeded behind rival and premiere power Don Bosco. Just like last season, the Dons beat the Lions in the regular season, handing them their only losses to a 1A school. Bosco thumped Lisbon by 27 points in December, but the gap shrunk to 34-28 on Jan. 25.
“I feel we’re getting better every week,” Smith said. “It came down to the last match against Bosco. The first time they beat us by 27 that kind of snowballed. We’re kind of right there with them, right now, and if we changed a couple little things we can get them.”
The Lions realize they are an underdog to win it all, but they have hurdles to overcome to get to that point.
“I think a couple of us feel that way,” Happel said. “Some of us feel we have a very good shot of coming ahead this time. We have to beat Woodbury Central and (maybe) Denver in the semifinal, so we can’t be looking ahead too much.
“If we get to Bosco, it should be a good one.”
Third-ranked Denver has dropped a class and is a contender with Don Bosco and Lisbon. All three teams boast nine individual state qualifiers. The Lions have eight ranked wrestlers and 10 wrestlers with at least 29 victories, including Happel, Siebrecht, who is a three-time state medalist ranked third at 145, Bryce Werderman and Kaden Kilburg, who are ranked third at 170 and 152, respectively.
Cobe Siebrecht is ranked second at 126 and Logan O’Connor is eighth at 220. Ryne Mohrfeld (132) and Jake Jennett (195) are also ranked, giving the Lions balance and more than 95 points back from last year’s traditional state tournament.
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“Bosco is going to be good. Denver is going to be good,” said Smith, who is tied with legendary coach Bob Siddens with 11 state traditional team titles. “Missouri Valley is going to be good. There are some solid teams there.
“We’re going to have to have our A-game, but so will they.”
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