Light and the future is bright.
Young lightweights have highlighted the Lisbon wrestling season. Freshman duo Nick Williams and Carter Happel and sophomore Colten Smith are highly ranked and lead the Lions into the postseason Saturday.
Class 1A and 2A wrestlers will compete in sectional tournaments across the state Saturday, beginning at noon. Lisbon will compete in a 1A sectional hosted by Durant. Louisa-Muscatine, North Cedar, Tipton, Wapello and Wilton round out the field. The top-two individuals at each weight advance to next Saturday’s district tournament at Tipton. The top two teams advance to regional duals Tuesday.
It is no surprise the ranked Lions work together in practice. Williams and Smith are regular partner, while Happel trains a lot with senior Hunter Hutchison, who opened the season ranked 10th at 126 and sophomore 132-pounder Ryan Kortemeyer.
“We have a good room,” Williams said. “We all work hard every day, getting better.”
The “iron sharpens iron” belief applies to these Lions. They help each other improve. Sometimes competition is easier than battles in practice.
“When we wrestle live, we go at it,” Happel said. “Hunter and I get in big, crazy scrambles. It helps with mat awareness when I’m wrestling (matches).”
Happel is 35-0 and ranked second by The Predicament at 120 pounds. Williams is not far behind with a 27-1 at 106 mark and rated third in 1A. Smith bridges the gap and is sixth at 113. Happel certainly was immediately on many radars, anticipating him to make an immediate impact. He has met his own high expectations so far.
“It’s going really well. It’s going how I planned,” Happel said. “I was hoping I would be undefeated going into sectionals.”
Williams, on the other hand, worked his way up the rankings as the season progressed. His biggest win came against Durant’s fourth-ranked Chase Exline, who will be in the same sectional. Williams knew he would have to earn the recognition.
“I wasn’t in the rankings to start,” said Williams, noting he is happy with his regular season. “I felt I needed to prove myself, being a freshman.”
They aren’t ordinary freshman. The two are second-generation Lions wrestlers. Happel’s father, Dean, was a three-time state champion for Lisbon from 1982-84, who also coached the Lions to a State Duals appearance in 2003. Nick Williams’ dad, Darin, wrestled for the Lions and his uncle, Chad, was a Lisbon state champion.
The elder Happel might have a better resume and owns an advantage on the mat, but both might expire in the near future.
“He is, right now,” the younger Happel said about his father being better. “A couple years, like two or three, I’ll get him.”
Happel and Williams have been longtime friends, starting wrestling together when they were both in Kindergarten, according to Happel. He couldn’t imagine what it would be like not competing alongside one another. The team has a strong camaraderie also.
“Nick and I have been friends since we were born,” Happel said. “Our dads went to school together.
“Colten and I are good friends. The whole team usually does stuff together.”
With the return of Hall of Fame Coach Brad Smith this season and a feeder system that has some upcoming talent, these current underclassmen could be the cornerstone of strong Lions teams. They embrace that role.
“We’re going to try and be leaders for the younger group coming up,” Williams said. “We’re working hard to get another state team title before we’re out of here.”
They aren’t waiting for the future to make their mark. They aren’t looking to ease their way into their goals.
“I want to win sectional and district,” Williams said. “Then, I can go on to bigger things and win state this year, hopefully. That’s my goal.”
Happel has similar aspirations, as he attempts to match or surpass his dad’s achievements.
“Right now, it’s just to win state this year,” Happel said. “I’ll just take it one year at a time. I’m ready for sectional. It’s coming fast, but I’m ready.”
Top-ranked Alburnett begins its trek for a 1A state title after placing third the last three years. The Pirates have nine ranked wrestlers, led by top-ranked 106-pounder Zach Fowler, defending state champion and No. 1-rated Hunter Washburn at 113 and top-ranked freshman Conner Shulista (132). Alburnett’s Grant Henderson (152) and 160-pounder Dylan Windfield are both ranked second. They will wrestle in a sectional tournament hosted by Maquoketa Valley at Delhi.
“These guys are ready to go,” said Alburnett Coach Kane Thompson, who added, “The opportunity is there (for a state title). Whether we take advantage of it is yet to be determined.
“They’re pretty excited.”
BGM, Clarksville, Eddyville-Blakesburg, Iowa Valley, Sumner-Fredericksburg and Starmont also host 1A sectionals.
In Class 2A, Dyersville Beckman will host a sectional tournament that includes top-ranked West Delaware. Second-ranked Davenport Assumption will compete in a 2A sectional at Maquoketa. No. 6 Union and eighth-ranked Denver-Tripoli will wrestle at Vinton-Shellsburg.
Clear Creek Amana will host a 2A sectional in Tiffin, including Mount Vernon, Benton Community, Solon, South Tama and Williamsburg.