Southeast Warren’s Ty Schneider celebrates Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2015, after defeating Alburnett in the semifinals to advance to the 1A championship round at the State Dual Team Wrestling Tournament at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.
The pin-littered path to two state championships has been lined with more monotony than Carter Happel would like.
Given a choice, the Lisbon junior would much rather take the gut-wrenching twists of the state tournament, where the stakes, nerves and competition run high and one ill-timed slip can wreck championship hopes.
“Your adrenaline gets going so much that you don’t really think about everything else that’s going on,” he said. “You can’t do anything wrong. You only have one chance down there. You can’t have one bad match. You do something wrong and you can’t get it back.”
Especially not this week.
Two dozen state champions are back, looking to add to their title tallies. That’s 10 more than a year ago.
“It’s time to tighten up the headgear,” Union of LaPorte City’s Max Thomsen said.
Thomsen can continue scribbling his name throughout the Iowa high school record books this week. Thomsen extended the longest winning streak in state history to 195 with three wins in Wednesday’s state duals. The top-ranked 145-pounder in Class 2-A is 206-1 as a prep and needs three more wins to move past Brandon Sorensen and Andrew Foutch and claim the top spot on the Iowa high school victories chart.
To Thomsen, though, the records are secondary compared to his pursuit of a fourth state title.
“That’s all you want to be when you’re a kid,” he said. “You want to be a four-timer. You want to get that standing ovation. It’s always been in the back of my head as something I wanted to get.”
Bettendorf’s Fredy Stroker shared the same dream. When he was young, he pictured himself holding up four fingers after getting his hand raised as a senior.
But a last-second takedown on the edge of the mat by Iowa City West senior Phillip Laux ended Stroker’s championship bid as a 113-pound freshman. He’ll take aim at his third 3-A title this week at 145 pounds.
“I always talk about what (would’ve happened) if I had dropped to 106 or if I had done this or that,” Stroker said. “But it was a close match and definitely a learning experience. I’ve had that in the back of my head ever since then. I’ve been lucky to be in the state finals all three years of high school, so hopefully I can make it a fourth year in a row.”
To get there, Stroker will have to navigate through a bracket that includes another state champ, Linn-Mar’s Matt Wempen. It’s one of three weights that feature two state champs.
Lisbon’s Nick Williams could have to contend with Clarion-Goldfield-Dows’ Josh Portillo at 126 pounds. Both were 1-A champs last year.
For Happel to keep his four-title hopes intact, he’ll need to get through a bracket that includes a fellow champ for the second straight year. The Lisbon star pinned two-time state champ Hunter Washburn of Alburnett in last year’s quarterfinals at 132. This year, Happel might need to knock off one of his friends at 138 pounds.
He spent the summer training with Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont’s Jeren Glosser. They traveled together — along with Center Point-Urbana state champion Brock Rathbun — to the Fila Cadet Nationals in Akron, Ohio.
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“They’re not taught to back off, stall or keep it close,” Rathbun said. “They’re taught to go after it and score points.”
The don’t-back-down mentality is part of the reason Happel and Glosser — both unbeaten this season — are in the same weight class.
“I’m looking for a challenge — it’s the reason I stayed at 138,” Glosser said. “I could’ve went up to 145 if I wanted to and probably won that bracket, in my opinion. I beat the No. 1-ranked guy at 145. But I want that challenge. I think that’s what I need to do for myself.”