• Class: 2016
• School: Lisbon
• Projected college weight: 141
• High school record: 154-1
• Why he’s one of the Iowa Eight: Happel was the easiest choice of the bunch. His wrestling resume is bigger, brighter and packed with more boldface accomplishments than anyone else at the Iowa high school level. He’s a three-time state champion whose only loss came as a freshman when he bumped up a weight in the regional duals.
The son of three-time state champion Dean Happel raised his level the past three years at the state meet. He downed Wilton’s Brady Ruden 4-2 in overtime to win his first championship. In 11 other state tournament bouts, Happel registered six pins, three major decisions and a technical fall.
Thanks to performances beyond state borders, Happel is currently ranked by Flowrestling as the No. 25 overall prospect nationally in the 2016 class. He claimed a Cadet freestyle national title two summers ago and earned a spot last year on the Fila Cadet World Championship squad.
Happel rarely finds himself out of position. He’s adept at setting up shots, continually moves his feet and finds angles to attack opponents from the neutral position. He can score points from the top position with a variety of turns and, although he rarely spends time on the bottom at the Iowa high school level, he’s shown an ability to get away when necessary.
• Upcoming season outlook: Minutes after Union of LaPorte City’s Max Thomsen became Iowa’s 24th four-time state champion in February, Happel climbed to the top of the awards podium inside Wells Fargo Arena for the third time. He’ll try to follow Thomsen into the four-time club and knock him off the top of Iowa’s all-time victory chart. Thomsen holds the state record with 210 career wins. Happel, who went 58-0 as a junior, needs 57 victories to pass the Northern Iowa recruit.
Numbers and history aside, Happel has goals that stretch beyond high school. Although he racks up points at the prep level, he said he needs to hone his offense before he gets to college.
“The times I’ve gone into college rooms I’ve had trouble getting to the legs and finishing,” he said. “I need to work on that.”
• Future prospects: Happel said Iowa, Iowa State, Northern Iowa, Minnesota and Penn State have contacted him throughout the summer, but he’s putting recruiting on hold until after this week’s Junior Nationals in Fargo, N.D.
• Quotable: “He puts in more time than anybody I’ve ever coached (in 38 years) probably. (Four-time undefeated state champion and two-time NCAA champion) Jeff McGinness was right there. He was really dedicated and spent a lot of time at it, but Carter’s even more thorough with his training habits and things like that. As good as he is right now, he knows he needs to get better. He knows what it takes and I don’t have to motivate him to do much.” — Lisbon coach Brad Smith
ABOUT THIS SERIES
The Iowa Eight is the Register’s preseason list of the eight best wrestlers in the state of Iowa. Incoming freshmen through seniors are eligible. The team is selected based on Register staff observations and consultation with high school and college contacts. The Register will have additional Iowa Eight lists for key boys’ and girls’ sports throughout the year.