Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide. To receive daily news from the Iowa Hawkeyes, sign up HERE.
By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.
Two qualified candidates at one weight class, dueling for an opportunity to be the guy when the meat and potatoes of the wrestling season begins in January. It has happened before and often within the Dan Gable Wrestling Complex at the University of Iowa:
Cory Clark-Thomas Gilman, Ethen Lofthouse-Sammy Brooks, Blake Rasing-Bobby Telford, Tony Ramos-Tyler Clark. Iron sharpening iron.
“We have two good options there,” Iowa head coach Tom Brand said.
“There” is the 141-pound weight class. The “two good options” are sophomore Vince Turk and redshirt freshman Carter Happel.
Turk emerged during wrestle-offs, defeating Happel, 6-2, in the final. Turk won his first three dual matches of the season — all with bonus points — before dropping decisions against Rider and Illinois. Meanwhile, Happel went 4-1 at the Luther College Open, with his only loss to true freshman teammate Max Murin in the final. Murin will likely redshirt.
Two good options, running side-by-side down the backstretch. Both wrestlers made the east coast swing to Rutgers and Maryland. Happel got the call at Rutgers and lost, 3-2, to No. 17 Michael Van Brill. Prior to the Maryland dual, Brands grabbed a coin and flipped. If it landed on one side, Turk would take the mat; if it landed on the other, it would be Happel’s time to shine.
“I didn’t know who to go with, let’s figure it out with a little bit of randomness,” Brands said.
Happel won the toss.
“He didn’t do enough to win the first match and whether you win or lose, things will take care of themselves if you wrestle hard,” Brands said. “He didn’t wrestle hard enough. He wrestled only parts of those periods. I don’t know if he wrestled a third of that match.”
Happel reviewed his strategy against Rutgers and adjusted before taking the mat two days later against No. 12 Ryan Diehl of Maryland.
“I wanted to shoot more, attack more, set up my shots,” Happel said. “That helped against (Diehl).”
Brands was impressed with how Happel stayed in the match, scored points, and at the end of the bout put together a series of holds to secure the winning takedown. Happel won, 8-7.
“That is a good step forward,” Brands said.
“Getting a big win always helps,” Happel said. “Coming off a tight loss, then getting a big win two days later boosts my confidence. If I would have gone 0-2 on the weekend, I would have been down, but getting that win does a lot.”
Happel downplays the fact he opened his varsity career on the road in enemy arenas. At Lisbon (Iowa) High School, he won 209 matches and four state championships. He went 22-3 last season, competing unattached.
“People were making a big deal out of how I was thrown out there for my first match in a hostile environment,” Happel said. “It didn’t affect me much on the mat because I don’t really hear anything when I’m out there wrestling. It is good to get it out of the way, but it doesn’t matter.”
Despite Iowa’s personnel at Rutgers and Maryland, Brands says the lineup hasn’t switched since the Iowa City Duals in November. That original lineup included Turk at 141.
“It doesn’t mean anything has changed,” Brands said. “At 141, it’s still Vince Turk, he emerged in the early part of the season and he is still a half ahead and now we go to Midlands.”
Happel and Turk could easily meet again at the 55th annual Ken Kraft Midlands Championships from Dec. 29-30 at Sears Centre Arena in Hoffman Estates, Illinois. If and when they do, it will be another example of iron sharpening iron among Hawkeye teammates.
“I want to go out there and do my thing: put points on the board and do stuff coach wants to see,” Happel said. “That will help me get that spot.”