Lisbon picked up right where it left off before the holiday break.
The Lions resumed their dominant regular season, posting four decisive dual victories and capturing the team title at the Tripoli Invitational Saturday by almost 100 points.
They did all that without Hall of Fame Coach Brad Smith, who rejoined the team Tuesday after contracting and recovering from COVID-19 in quarantine. The illness forced Smith to miss his first practice and competition in 43 years of coaching.
Smith said he feels good, despite some lingering fatigue as he works back to 100 percent.
“I didn’t have a real bad case, but I had a fever for almost 12 straight days,” Smith said. “Finally, I got released Sunday and went back to practice on Monday.”
Lisbon assistants Dean Happel, Brian Hall and Jeff Clark picked up the slack in Smith’s absence. All three had wrestled for Smith, while Happel and Hall were both former Lions head coaches. They filled in admirably for Iowa’s all-time coaching leader in dual victories and state championships.
“I knew we were in pretty good hands,” Smith said. “We talked every day. I wanted them to show and work on certain things. He did all that really well. We didn’t miss much with me not being there because they know what to expect and what we need to do. It makes my job that much easier.”
The Lions have blistered opponents since the calendar turned. Lisbon is 4-0 after the break, improving to 10-1 overall. They posted a 47-5 match record in those four duals.
Lisbon tallied 245 1/2 points Saturday, crowning seven champions out of 10 finalists. Eleven of 13 wrestlers placed in the top three, combining to go 37-8 the entire day.
Brandon Paez (120), Quincy Happel (132), top-ranked 145-pounder and two-time state champion Robert Avila Jr., Max Kohl (170), Truman Krob (195), top-ranked Cole Clark at 220 and heavyweight Tony Baltes all won gold. Avila, Clark and Baltes are all undefeated, while Happel and Paez have just one loss.
“They are wrestling real well,” Smith said. “We have several kids getting close to 20 wins … Most kids in our lineup have been real consistent. “Most have been pretty solid for us.”
Lisbon has a Tri-Rivers Conference double dual Thursday against Starmont and host Alburnett. The Lions will wrestle in Solon’s Ed Hadenfeldt Invitational on Saturday.
State schedule still undetermined
The Iowa High School Athletic Association state wrestling tournament has not been finalized yet. According to a news release Tuesday, the Board of Control will vote to approve the format and schedule at its Jan. 21 meeting.
The news release also confirmed that the original schedule from Feb. 17-20 at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines remains in place. Changes were prematurely shared across social media Tuesday, declaring that the traditional state tournament had been switched to Feb. 17-19 with single-class competition each day. In a previous article by The Gazette, IHSAA Director of Officials and wrestling administrator Lewie Curtis noted that was one of the possible changes that were being considered, along with the state duals moving to Saturday. The final decision would be based on attendance limitations, logistics and crowd control.
One of the other considered changes is a reduction in state duals teams, decreasing the field to four instead of eight teams per class.
The IHSAA plans to announce its decision to member schools and the public immediately after next Thursday’s meeting.
IWOCA girls' state tournament grows
The third Iowa Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association girls’ state tournament will be held Jan. 22-23 at Xtream Arena in Coralville. The event was held at Waverly-Shell Rock High School the previous two seasons.
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The bigger venue also will include a larger field than the first two editions. The inaugural tournament consisted of 87 participants, despite weather that caused some cancellations or prevented some from attending. Last year, the number grew to 350 wrestlers.
According to a Twitter post by Waverly-Shell Rock Coach Eric Whitcome, 471 wrestlers were registered with one hour left before Wednesday’s deadline.
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