Lisbon's Carter Happel joins elite four-time state wrestling champion club

Alburnett's Shulista wins title to secure team crown for Pirates

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DES MOINES — Carter Happel knelt and pointed upward.

After his arms were raised and he signaled his momentous achievement with four outstretched fingers on each hand, he soaked in the customary standing ovation from the crowd.

“The standing (ovation) was outstanding,” the Lisbon senior said. “It was a fantastic atmosphere out there. It was everything I thought it would be.”

Happel concluded his quest to become the 25th four-time state champion at the Iowa High School Athletic Association Class 1A state wrestling tournament Saturday night at Wells Fargo Arena. Happel defeated Dike-New Hartford’s second-ranked Trent Johnson, 7-1, to capture the 145-pound title.

“Everything that was ever told to me about this journey was right,” the Lisbon senior said. “Everything’s worth it. All the hard work, all the effort you put in.”

The final celebration included a jump into the arms of Lisbon head coach Brad Smith and then into the arms of assistant Greg Butteris. To cap it off, his father and Lisbon assistant, Dean Happel, came matside to embrace him.

He has said he wanted to top his dad, who was a three-time champ for Lisbon from 1982-84. The younger Happel didn’t know his dad was there, but it made the moment more special.

“I kind of heard him yelling and I was like he must be sitting down in the front row,” Happel said. “It was nice to have him down there.

“I don’t think me having one more will be a joke for very long because he’s very proud of me and what I’ve done.”

Happel scored on a high-crotch single-leg takedown in the first for a 2-0 lead. He added an escape and takedown in the third, closing with a third-period takedown. It was just his third decision in 16 state victories.

“I just wanted to go in there and wrestle solid,” Happel said. “Not try anything crazy and end up putting myself in danger. I went out and wrestled a real smart match and got the job done.”

Happel has rewritten the Lisbon record book, owning all but two records. He improved to 52-0, tying former Denver-Tripoli four-time state champion Brandon Sorensen for second on the state’s all-time list with 209 victories. He also moved into fifth all-time with 169 straight victories.

Happel, who also won titles at 120, 132 and 138, joined Scott Morningstar (1977-80) and Shane Light (1987-90), making Lisbon the only high school program with three four-timers. Light has been in the practice room as an assistant and greeted him in the tunnel with a hug.

“That is really special,” Happel said about Lisbon atop of the four-timer list. “Shane, all week, was telling me to go get it done for you. It’s your time to shine.”

He was joined on top of the awards stand by teammate and longtime friend Nick Williams. Lisbon’s Chase McLaughlin (46-9) earned a runner-up finish at 132.

Williams (29-1) reclaimed his state title, winning the 120-pound crown as a sophomore and placing third a year ago. Williams defeated Iowa Valley’s Jacob Krakow, 6-3, for the 138 title. Krakow ended the year with a 52-5 mark.

Williams’ victory allowed Happel’s to give Lisbon a half-point lead over rival Alburnett, but that was short-lived.

The Pirates’ Conner Shulista answered in the next final. Shulista avenged his lone loss of the season. He beat English Valleys’ Zach Axmear, 6-3, for the 152-pound title and gave Alburnett its second straight traditional state team title and a sweep this year.

“It’s an amazing feeling,” Shulista said. “I knew the team race was tight. I just had to go out there and wrestle my match and bring home a team title.”

Shulista (53-1) was a runner-up in 2015. He has waited for this chance an entire year.

“I worked my tail off,” Shulista said. “I’ve been getting in good condition (and) getting ready for these six-minute matches.”

Alburnett’s Tanner Sloan (41-3) provided an exclamation mark with an 8-0 major decision over AHSTW’s Tim Barr for the 170 title.

Alburnett had seven medalists for 119 points. Lisbon had six total and 111. The Pirates won their third traditional state team championship and fifth overall, matching the sweep from 2013.

North Linn junior Brock Henderson has waited for this moment for a long time. After finishing third and fourth the last two seasons, Henderson capitalized on his first finals appearance. The top-ranked 113-pounder defeated Mason City Newman’s No. 3 Jeremiah Colon, 4-3.

He devoted more time than ever in the off-season, training to be a state titlist.

“It feels awesome,” said Henderson, who claimed the school’s 15th individual state crown. “It paid off in a big way.”

Henderson (47-0) scored a takedown in the first and added one in the second for a 4-1 edge. An early advantage was important.

“That was big,” Henderson said. “I wanted to get to my shots, my offense (and) getting going.”

Colon closed the gap to one in the second with a takedown. He rode Henderson the entire third, but the waning moments included a moment where Colon was trying to set up a big throw with a quarter-Nelson. Henderson knew what to expect and stayed with his strength, trying to turn the corner instead of popping up.

“I know he’s a big thrower and has a bunch of rolls,” Henderson said. “He’s a pretty tough guy so I wanted to stick to the basics, hitting my stuff and scoring clean.”

The work for a second title begins immediately.

“Next season starts tomorrow,” Henderson said. “It will be a good practice tomorrow. I will enjoy it then.”

Iowa City Regina heavyweight Jared Brinkman capped a perfect season, ending 42-0. Brinkman defeated Manson-Northwest Webster’s Tim Butcher, 2-1, in the championship. He became Regina’s fourth state champion and first since Daniel Gaffey in 2013.

Highland’s Bryce West (55-0) captured his second straight crown at 120. West was almost put on his back by Southeast Warren’s Brady Kyner before catching him with a whipover and getting a fall in 3:26. His twin brother, Drew West, finished second with a 52-1 record at 126. Drew West, a 2014 state champion, dropped a 15-7 major decision to Underwood’s top-ranked Alex Thomsen.

Landers Kuboushek (48-4) became the fifth finalist in South Winneshiek history. He claimed a second-place finish at 195. Slade Sifuentes, ranked second from Lake Mills, recorded an 8-3 victory over Kuboushek for the title.

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

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