If you haven’t heard of Carter Happel by now, you have probably been living under a rock. Happel wrestles for one of Iowa high school wrestling’s most storied programs, the Lisbon Lions, and is half way to joining Iowa’s elite club of being a four time state champion.
Happel’s journey started last season, where he competed at 120 pounds and won his first state title putting himself on wrestling fan’s radars. Carter then went on to show off his freestyle might by winning a Fargo national title. If the fans in Iowa hadn’t taken notice of the young man, they sure were about to know who Lisbon’s next big star was now.
Entering his sophomore season he bumped up to the 132 pound weight class which featured another prominent high school wrestler, Alburnett’s Hunter Washburn. “He is a good wrestler and I knew every time we wrestled it was going to be a tough one.” Happel said, “Wrestling and beating the #2 guy in Iowa twice before the state tournament gave me a lot of confidence going into state.”
Washburn was a two time defending state champion, and on his own quest to join the four title club. It appeared that one of Happel or Washburn’s dreams would be dashed. SPOILER ALERT: It wasn’t Happel. Already picking up two regular season victories against Washburn, round three would be taking place in the quarterfinal round at the state tournament. A second period pin by Happel over Washburn propelled him through the rest of the tournament as he finished as 1A’s highest individual point scorer in the tournament and his four title quest well in tact.
His accomplishment at state earned him some recognition nationally, as he debuted at #20 in Intermat’s high school rankings at 132 pounds. Even better when Flo released their high school rankings without the 2014 class, Carter Happel was sitting just outside the top 10 at #11. When I asked Carter what keeps him motivated after achieving so much success at a young age he responded, “The fact that it seems every year there is a new and bigger tournament to go to. All of these tournaments are just small steps to the highest level, which is the senior level.” Carter went on to talk about his future goals, “My main goal right now is to go win a World Title. I have a goal to win two more state titles in high school and a Fargo title in Juniors.”
If you still don’t know who this Happel kid is, maybe you heard about his trip to Slovakia he will be taking? No, this isn’t a family trip to go backpacking in Europe, Happel is traveling to Slovakia to do some wrestling. “It feels great to be on this team.” said Happel referring to representing Team USA at 58 KG, “I have been working hard for the past two months for this opportunity.”
This tournament in Slovakia is a very elite tournament, one that required high school wrestlers to travel to Akron, Ohio to wrestle at the Cadet National tournament. Surprisingly at Cadet Nationals, Happel lost 8-8 criteria to Ohio’s Corey Shie. “I was really bummed after the loss,” Carter said, “but I had to get myself back together and go out and wrestle hard against my next opponents. I also had to depend on another match for a chance to be in the finals and it ended up playing into my favor.” The breaks certainly did fall his way, as he made the finals to face #9 at 126 lbs Nick Lee.
“I knew I was going up against a tough opponent, and I knew it was going to be a good match. My coaches and I scouted him and we formed a game plan for the match. I went out there and wrestled my style, executed the plan, and got the job done.” Getting the job done resulted in a 12-7 victory and the Happels needed to start looking for ways to get to Slovakia. “It took about 20 minutes for it to sink in, exactly what he had just accomplished, and to be honest it is still sinking in.” Carter’s mother, Dawn said about her son earning a spot on the national team. “Over the years, I have watched him win many tournaments and he never ceases to amaze and impress me.”
“[I was] overwhelmed. Carter Happel is representing the USA in Slovakia. I knew he had trained hard enough, I watched him have to overcome adversity with losing a match, but then take care of business in the rest of this matches to make the finals! Now he has to get a passport, quick.” His father Dean said. “He is a great role model for his siblings, and other kids in our community on and off the mat.”
Enter the website GoFundMe.com. It is a website that people can use to get the message about personal fundraisers that they are holding. The Happels have one of these fundraisers, to help offset the cost of traveling to Slovakia. You can follow this link to their GoFundMe page, and donate to a really good cause. After all Carter is not just a wrestler, but he is a good role model for other young wrestlers, and an outstanding citizen as well. “The day after he won FILA he walked in and participated in the Memorial Day parade the town of Lisbon puts on.” Dawn said, “He’s very driven, yet humble. In fact, I think it is safe to say that I actually look up to him in many ways.”
Happel has the support of his family, which he is the second oldest of nine children. “We all gathered around the computer and watched him compete in Akron and we all gathered around to watch him compete at Fargo last year.” Dawn said, “Carter supports his siblings too. We do things as a family.”
Carter ended our interview with this, “I would like to thank my coaches Joey Slaton, Terry Brands, and James Kelly at Eastern Iowa Wrestling Club. My high school coaches Brad Smith and Greg Butteris for all they have done for me. I would like to thank the great wrestling fans in the community that I live in, and the fans in the state of Iowa. I plan on representing this country to the best of my ability. Win or lose all the glory goes to God.”
I think I speak for all wrestling fans when I say that we wish Carter the best of luck in Slovakia this summer and I cannot truly think of a better person to throw our support behind. Carter displays qualities that are looked for in every human being. A leader and role model as a wrestler, and well respected in his community for giving back. I think we can all agree we should get behind Carter and give him the support he needs to complete one of his dreams, while representing our country, and the wrestling community. That link again is http://www.gofundme.com/9kr098. Let’s show Carter and his family our support!