Prep Wrestling

Lisbon's Cael Happel downs nation's No. 2-ranked wrestler for title at Independence

Lions take second as a team with 3 finalists

INDEPENDENCE — Cael Happel said he was eating lunch earlier this week when he learned he might cross paths with another of the nation’s top prep wrestlers.

Happel was ready to sink his teeth into a challenge that already included Ankeny’s Caleb Rathjen, who is ranked ninth nationally by Now, Ryan Sokol, the country’s No. 2-ranked 138-pounder from Simley (Minn.) High School was on the potential menu.

“I told my mom I’m beating Sokol this weekend,” Happel said when he found out Thursday. “I was pretty excited when I found out. I’m going to have an opportunity to beat someone that is considered one of the best in the country.”

Lisbon’s three-time state champion feasted with wins over both Rathjen and Sokol in consecutive battles between NCAA Division I recruits. 

Happel scored the only two takedowns of the final and defeated Sokol 5-3 for the 138-pound title at the Cliff Keen Independence Invitational on Saturday at Independence High School. He was voted Outstanding Wrestler by tournament coaches.

The final victory came on the heels of his 6-5 decision over Class 3A No. 1 Rathjen in the semifinals.

“It’s an opportunity to make a statement,” said Happel, who is top-ranked in 1A and entered Saturday ranked seventh nationally. “I think I did.”


After a scoreless first, Happel escaped and took a lead he didn’t surrender. Actually, he wasn’t threatened.

The first of two strong low leg attacks came later that period for a 3-0 lead. The work in the opening period helped set up his offense later in the match.

“The first two minutes were crucial for me,” Happel said. “I knew he was going to get tired, so banging on that head for that two minutes takes a lot out of a kid and I can could feel it. Feel him get lazy and I took advantage of it.”

His third-period takedown was sandwiched between two Sokol escapes. Lisbon Coach Brad Smith said Happel was primed for this chance and imposed his will.

“Cael just wanted it more,” Smith said. “He out-wrestled him.”

Happel tallied two takedowns against Rathjen as well, building a 4-0 edge in takedowns over top-10 nationally-ranked foes.

“He stays low and drives right through the legs,” Smith said. “You end up falling on your rear. He knows what he’s doing out there. He’s in great shape.”

Happel was joined by teammate Robert Avila Jr. atop the awards stand. Avila, a returning 1A champion, passed a tough test, defeating Iowa City West’s state runner-up Hunter Garvin, 11-1, in the 132 final.

The sophomore duo produced a lot of action through the first two periods, including two first-period takedowns, a reversal and 6-4 lead for Avila after the first.


In the second period, Avila took control with a key reversal and two nearfall on the edge. He added an escape in the third, which was a slower pace and more methodical.

“It was a fun match,” Avila said. “A lot of high-scoring moves. I thought I wrestled pretty well, but I think I can do better. It definitely helps me for the future.”

The Lions had three finalists and finished second with 377 points, 47 behind Simley. Cole Clark placed second at 195.

“The team did great,” Smith said. “Eleven ranked teams were here and we were a solid second.”

Linn-Mar had three finalists and two champs as well. Junior Brandon O’Brien used a rideout in the ultimate tiebreaker for a 3-2 victory over Simley’s Cash Raymond for the 106 championship.

“He gutted it out,” Linn-Mar Coach Doug Streicher said. “Good for him.”

Linn-Mar freshman Tate Naaktgeboren claimed the 160-pound title, beating Osage’s 2A second-ranked Zach Williams, 5-1. Naaktgeboren pinned four foes this weekend, adding a major decision and outscoring opponents, 17-2, in matches that went the distance.

“It says a lot about a freshman in the finals in this tournament, leading 5-1 and looking for a tilt at the end,” Streicher said. “That’s the type of kid he is. He carries himself great. What you see is what you get and it’s pretty good.”

The Lions tied for fifth with 228 points, receiving a runner-up finish from Bryce Parke at 126.

Solon state champ Hayden Taylor won the 145-pound crown with a 7-2 decision over Ankeny’s Sam Kallem. Maquoketa Taven Rich beat Fort Madison’s Danen Settles, 5-1, for the heavyweight title.


At Independence


Teams – 1. Simley (Minn.) 424, 2. Lisbon 377, 3. Fort Dodge 316.5, 4. Christian Brothers College (Mo.) 245.5, 5. (tie) Ankeny and Linn-Mar 228, 7. Independence 215, 8. Iowa City West 214, 9. Solon 210, 10. Fennimore (Wis.) 196.5.

Other Gazette-area teams – 12. C.R. Prairie 183, t17. Maquoketa 146, 22. South Tama 128, t26. Clear Creek Amana 97, 29. Alburnett 88, 30. C.R. Xavier 61, 32. North Fayette Valley 36.

Championship matches

106 pounds – Brandon O’Brien (LM) dec. Cash Raymond (Sim), 3-2 UTB

113 – Carter Fousek (Crestwood) dec. Trever Anderson (Ank), 8-6 SV

120 – Drake Ayala (FD) pinned Santino Robinson (CBC), 5:18

126 – Carson Taylor (FD) dec. Bryce Parke (LM), 7-5

132 – Robert Avila Jr. (Lis) dec. Hunter Garvin (ICW), 11-8

138 – Cael Happel (Lis) dec. Ryan Sokol (Sim), 5-3

145 – Hayden Taylor (Sol) dec. Sam Kallem (Ank), 7-2

152 – Vinny Zerban (CBC) pinned Eli Loyd (Pleasant Valley), 2:44

160 – Tate Naaktgeboren (LM) dec. Zach Williams (Osage), 5-1

170 – Mickey Griffith (D.M. Lincoln) dec. Nolan Wanzek (Sim), 1-0

182 – Gavin Nelson (Sim) dec. Will Hoeft (ICW), 6-3

195 – Quayin Short (Sim) dec. Cole Clark (Lis), 7-1

220 – Bennett Tabor (Sim) pinned Andrew Hamilton (Algona), 3:40

Hwt. – Taven Rich (Maq) dec. Danen Settles (Ft. Madison), 5-1.

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