116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
LISBON — Lisbon's Nick Williams has experienced a few bumps in the road this season.
He has endured the rough patches and intends for the path to lead back to the top of the state podium.
Williams took the first step back to state, capturing the 138-pound title at the Class 1A sectional wrestling tournament Saturday and helping host Lisbon to the team title. The Lions crowned a school-record 10 sectional champions and 272 points, beating runner-up Tipton by 121. Both programs qualify for regional duals Tuesday.
Top-ranked Williams missed the first half of the season with an injury and even missed time in the second half, but that didn't keep him from improving to 21-1.
'I was out until after Christmas break, so it's been a tough year,' Williams said. 'Just coming back, I've been working toward this.'
Injuries and challenges come with the territory. Williams has remained focus to get back to his state championship form.
'Wrestling is a tough sport and obviously that stuff happens,' said Williams, a 2014 state titlist who was third last season. 'You just have to fight through it.'
Williams dominated two opponents. He handled Central City's Austin VanAlst, 17-3, in the final, pulling away after a 3-3 tie to start the second. Williams opened with a technical fall in the semifinal.
'I got taken down so I'm not happy about that, but I feel pretty good,' Williams said. 'My shape is good.'
Lisbon Coach Brad Smith said Williams is a 'gamer' and makes a habit of rising to the occasion in competition. Smith said he is technically smooth and physical, working to get stronger in the off-season. The key is to keep him healthy the next two weeks.
'He has had to overcome some adversity this year,' Smith said. 'When he's healthy and in the shape that he needs to be, he's going to be the guy to beat. We still have a little bit of time.'
Lisbon's Wally Zernich missed about half of the season, coming to town this year from Nevada. Zernich has fit right in with the Lions, winning the 126-pound title. Zernich had two pins, including a fall in 21 seconds over Midland's Trevor Gudenkauf in the final.
Zernich (14-1) has benefited from strong training partners from 120 to 145 pounds.
'He's the real deal,' Smith said. 'He gets a good practice every day. He didn't get that where he was from and the competition. He really loves the crowd support we have. He gets really pumped up for that.'
Lisbon three-time state champion Carter Happel improved to 43-0, receiving an injury default in the final and posting a first-period fall in the semifinal. Happel is trying to become the 25th four-time state champion in Iowa history.
The Lions dominated the field overall, getting titles from Cole Siebrecht (106), Cooper Siebrecht (120), No. 6 Chase McLaughlin (132), No. 10 Hunter Robinson (152), Kaden Kilburg (160), Bryce Werderman (170) and heavyweight Logan O'Connor.
They combined for a 22-3 mark, advancing 11 to district. Lisbon tallied 16 total pins, scoring bonus points in 20 victories. Smith said the Lions are close to peaking at the right time, but have to continue their progress.
'We wrestled really tough,' Smith said. 'Our kids are bonus points type of kids. They are always looking for falls. If they don't get falls, they are looking for technical falls or major (decisions). It was a complete team effort.'
Tipton was second to Lisbon with six district qualifiers and two champions. Seventh-ranked Jordan Challis (37-5) led the Tigers, claiming the 195-pound title. Challis, who placed seventh at the 2015 state tournament, took Durant's Brandon Dykes down to his back for a five-point move with about 30 seconds to earn a 9-4 victory.
He was joined on the top of the podium by the Tigers' Ben Emrich. The sophomore 113-pounder blanked Lisbon's Ryan Mohrfeld, 5-0, in the final.
West Branch crowned a champion in sixth-ranked 220-pounder Drew Finnegan. He improved to 27-2 this season, pinning Tipton's Cameron Ihrig in 2:50 in the championship. Finnegan advanced to the final with a 17-second pin in his first match.
Midland and North Cedar advanced three wrestlers apiece to next Saturday's district at Wilton. Central City finished with two district qualifiers.
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