Lisbon’s three-time state champion Cael Happel commits to Northern Iowa

Cody Goodwin
The Des Moines Register

Just one week after winning his third Iowa state title, Lisbon junior Cael Happel made his college decision.

Happel informed the Des Moines Register on Sunday evening that he has committed to Northern Iowa. He is the Panthers’ first 2020 commitment, and chose them over Iowa State and Iowa. He projects at 133/141 pounds.

“I liked everything,” Happel told the Register. “It seemed like home for me.”

Happel recently completed a perfect season, going 53-0 en route to a Class 1A state title at 132 pounds. He helped Lisbon to a second-place team finish behind Don Bosco at the 1A traditional state tournament. He led the Lions to back-to-back team titles in 2017-18.

For his career, Happel is 164-5 overall. He’s previously won 1A state titles at 113 pounds in 2017 and 120 in 2018. He was an Iowa Eight selection by the Register ahead of the 2018-19 season. He is currently ranked No. 19 nationally at 132 pounds by Flowrestling, and is considered the No. 82 overall recruit in the 2020 class.

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Even more, Happel is the latest in-state wrestler to chose Northern Iowa. The Panthers’ 2018 recruiting class featured nine in-state wrestlers: Kyle Biscoglia, Drew Bennett, Michael Blockhus, Gable Fox, John McConkey, Bryce Esmoil, Tyrell Gordon (now the starting 197-pounder), Noah Glaser and Cayd Lara.

Northern Iowa's 2019 recruiting haul features two more in-state wrestlers in Southeast Polk’s Lance Runyon and Perry’s Kaleb Olejniczak. Runyon won a 3A state title this past season at 152 pounds while Olejniczak was a 2018 state finalist and finished third this past season at 138 pounds in 2A.

Happel was at the West Gym in Cedar Falls on Thursday night when the Panthers beat Iowa State, 23-12, before more than 2,100 fans. He was enraptured by the crowd as they cheered during Northern Iowa’s third-straight victory over the Cyclones.

“That was crazy,” Happel said. “That was really fun. It was kind of hard to be unbiased during that time because I hadn’t made a decision yet, but it was fun.”

Lisbon junior Cael Happel celebrates after beating Underwood junior Logan James for a Class 1A state title win at 132 pounds during the state wrestling Class 1A championship on Saturday, Feb. 16, 2019, at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.

Happel is the latest member of his family to become a Division I wrestler. Carter, a four-time state champion from 2013-16, is currently a 141-pounder at Iowa. Their father, Dean, won three state titles for Lisbon and then wrestled at both Edinboro and Iowa in the 1980s.

Happel is also the second Lisbon wrestler this season to announce plans to wrestle Division I. His teammate, Cobe Siebrecht, announced his commitment to Iowa in January. The senior won state at 138 pounds last week. He is also the state’s third 2020 wrestler to commit to a Division I program, joining Cullan and Colby Schriever out of Mason City, who both committed to Iowa.

Cody Goodwin covers wrestling and high school sports for the Des Moines Register. Follow him on Twitter at @codygoodwin.