Iowa wrestling pulls in big recruiting haul with Happel, Wagner

Andy Hamilton

Tom Brands and his Iowa wrestling program secured key commitments from two of the state's elite wrestlers in Lisbon's Carter Happel and Bettendorf's Jack Wagner on Tuesday.

Happel, a three-time state champion, was ranked as the nation's No. 25 senior prospect by Flowrestling this summer. Happel, who projects to wrestle at 141 pounds in college, is 154-1 during his high school career in Iowa, including his 58-0 mark as a junior.

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“I’ve always wanted to be (at Iowa) ever since I started thinking about college," Happel said. "I’ve always wanted to be coached by (Lisbon native and Iowa assistant Ryan) Morningstar and the past few years I’ve built a good relationship with him. I’ve been training down there in the Eastern Iowa Wrestling Club the last two years and it feels like that’s the place to be, that’s home, I love it there and there’s a lot of tradition there at Iowa, especially with Lisbon people going there. And they’ve got a great fan base and community.”

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Happel was named to The Register's first Iowa Eight wrestling team this summer. Happel picked the Hawkeyes over Northern Iowa in the end. He also considered Iowa State, Minnesota and heard from Penn State early in the recruiting process.

"He puts in more time than anybody I've ever coached (in 38 years) probably," Lisbon coach Brad Smith told the Register in July. "(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."

Wagner, who projects to wrestle at 125 or 133 pounds at Iowa, has a 98-5 record and a pair of state titles during the past two prep seasons. He selected Iowa over Nebraska, Minnesota, Virginia Tech and Iowa State. Wagner was also an Iowa Eight member.

“I’ve grown up a Hawkeye fan and I feel I have that mentality of always wanting to score points and being physical," he said. "I’ve watched practices and I love it. I want to be in that environment and I think I’ll thrive off it.”

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Wagner said Iowa's stable of lightweights was another key factor in his decision. He'll join a roster that has All-Americans Thomas Gilman and Cory Clark at 125 and 133 and train in a room alongside World team member Tony Ramos and fellow Olympic hopeful Matt McDonough.

“There’s an unlimited amount of partners," Wagner said. "I think it’ll take me to new levels I could never see myself hitting, but I think it’s possible in the Iowa room. I couldn’t see anywhere else getting me to that level.”