Prep Wrestling

Iowa high school wrestling 2019-20: Area wrestlers and teams to watch

Lisbon 3-time champ Cael Happel highlights 5 returning state champions

Lisbon's Cael Happel leaves the mat with Dean Happel after his win over Underwood's Logan James in the 132-pound Class 1A championship bout at the state wrestling tournament at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines on Saturday, Feb. 16, 2019. Happel won by major decision 23-9. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Lisbon's Cael Happel leaves the mat with Dean Happel after his win over Underwood's Logan James in the 132-pound Class 1A championship bout at the state wrestling tournament at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines on Saturday, Feb. 16, 2019. Happel won by major decision 23-9. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
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A look at Gazette area wrestlers and teams to watch ahead of the 2019-20 Iowa high school wrestling season.

Wrestlers to watch

Cael Happel, Lisbon, sr. — Three-time Class 1A state champion, winning titles at 132, 120 and 113. Finished 53-0 with 35 pins. Owns 164-5 career mark. Northern Iowa commit.

Jack Thomsen, Union Community, sr. — Class 2A 138-pound state champion, going 47-0. Three-time state medalist, placing third and seventh. South Dakota State commit.

Aidan Noonan, Cascade, jr. — School’s first state champion, winning the Class 1A 113-pound title with 49-0 record. Two-time River Valley Conference titlist.

Robert Avila Jr., Lisbon, soph. — Class 1A state champion. Tri-Rivers champion. Finished 55-1 last season.

Hayden Taylor, Solon, soph. — Class 2A 126-pound state champion, Wamac Conference champion, Recorded 51-2 mark.

Hunter Garvin, Iowa City West, soph. — Class 3A state runner-up. Mississippi Valley Conference champion. First-team MVC Valley. Posted 39-4 record.

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Will Esmoil, West Liberty, sr. — Class 2A state runner-up, two-time state medalist and three-time qualifier, finished third in 2017. Finished 36-3 last season.

Isaiah Weber, Independence, soph. — Class 2A state runner-up. Wamac Conference champion. Finished 46-5.

Adam Ahrendsen, Union Community, jr. — Class 2A state finalist, two-time state qualifier and NICL champion. Posted 46-2 mark last year.

Austin Kegley, Cedar Rapids Prairie, sr. — Two-time Class 3A state medalist, earning third last season with 36-3 mark. MVC champion, first-team all-MVC Mississippi Division. Lindenwood (Mo.) commit.

Ashton Stoner-DeGroot, Cedar Rapids Prairie, sr. — Two-time state medalist, placing third in 2019 Class 3A tournament with a 25-1 record. MVC champion, first-team all-MVC Mississippi Division.

Josh Vis, Cedar Rapids Kennedy, sr. — Two-time Class 3A state medalist, placing third with 31-3 record last season. MVC champion and first-team all-MVC Valley Division at heavyweight. Northern Illinois commit.

Graham Gambrall, Iowa City West, jr. — Two-time Class 3A state medalist, placing sixth as a freshman. Two-time MVC champion. First-team all-MVC Valley. Finished 37-12 last season.

Brandon O’Brien, Linn-Mar, jr. — Class 3A state qualifier last season, going 27-6. MVC Super Meet finalist and first-team all-MVC Valley. Junior Nationals Greco-Roman national champion and Freestyle runner-up.

Ethan Wood-Finley, Iowa City High, sr. — Two-time Class 3A state medalist, finished fifth in 2018 and 2019. Posted 36-5 record last season. Two-time MVC champion, first-team all-MVC Mississippi Division.

Jalen Schropp, Williamsburg, sr. — Two-time Class 2A state medalist and three-time state qualifier, placing third last season, going 41-3. Two-time Wamac champion and three-time conference finalist.

Ben Smith, Iowa Valley, sr. — Two-time Class 1A state medalist and three-time qualifier, earning third as a junior. Three-time SICL champion. Went 49-5 last season.

Wyatt Voelker, West Delaware, soph. — Placed fourth in Class 2A state meet with 35-11 record. Wamac Conference tournament runner-up. Cadet All-American in Greco-Roman and Freestyle.

Zeb Gnida, Solon, sr. — Two-time state medalist. Placed sixth last season with 42-13 record. 2018 Wamac Conference tournament finalist.

Mason Dye, Sigourney-Keota, sr. — Two-time Class 1A state medalist and three-time qualifier, finishing fifth last season and fourth as a sophomore. Three-time SICL champion. Posted 31-6 record last year.

Christian Stanek, Cedar Rapids Xavier, soph. — Placed eighth in Class 3A, second-team all-MVC Mississippi Division. Finished with 33-12 record.

Dawson Sweet, Cedar Rapids Jefferson, sr. — Placed sixth in Class 3A, second-team all-MVC Valley. Finished with 26-12 record.

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TEAMS TO WATCH

Cedar Rapids Kennedy: The defending Mississippi Valley Conference Super Meet champion graduated some solid seniors from last year’s squad, but still has a good nucleus from last season. The upper weights will be as good as anyone in the area with Cade Parker, heavyweight Josh Vis, Jay Oostendorp and Cael Knox. If the Cougars fill some lightweight and middleweight holes, they will be tough.

Cedar Rapids Prairie: The Hawks are competitive year-in and year-out. They haven’t had the same firepower as some previous seasons, but they have someone to battle at each weight. Two-time state placewinners Austin Kegley and Ashton Stoner-DeGroot and returning qualifier Johnny Washburn highlight the lineup with 10 of 14 starters back. Prairie should be solid in duals and challenge in smaller tournaments.

Iowa City West: The Trojans are on the upswing. Young talent has turned into a formidable lineup. With the addition of former Iowa City Liberty state medalist Ashton Barker, West has five state medalists from last season in its lineup. The Trojans have potential high point scorers in state finalist Hunter Garvin and two-time state medalist Graham Gambrall leading the way.

Lisbon: The Lions have finished in the top two at the state traditional tournament each of the last four seasons. Lisbon is loaded with nine wrestlers who have state tournament experience and return 73 points from last season’s state meet. Three-time state champ Cael Happel and defending titlist Robert Avila power the lineup’s balance and depth for a good dual and tournament team capable of a title run.

Solon: The Spartans were a state duals finalist and a top-five team at the traditional meet, returning 45 1/2 points from last year’s state team. They have some big-point potential in state champion Hayden Taylor, Zeb Gnida and Jax Flynn. Solon has some holes to fill and will face some tough competition in a stacked Wamac Conference. If the Spartans can reload, they will have a formidable lineup.

Union Community: The Knights will be as strong as any team in Class 2A that is absolutely stacked with good teams on this side of the state. State champion Jack Thomsen and runner-up Adam Ahrendsen headline a talented group of four state medalists, including two-time placewinner Kolten Crawford and junior Lincoln Mehlert. Union might be West Delaware’s toughest foe in the traditional tournament.

West Delaware: The Hawks are coming off a state title sweep last season. They return six wrestlers with state experience, including five state medalists. The lineup is a perfect mix, of sorts, with 11 wrestlers who reached districts and an influx of young talent. West Delaware is a strong favorite to win its third straight Wamac tournament title and will contend at state again.

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

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