Journal entries and daily reminders help Lisbon's Cael Happel win four state titles

LISBON, Iowa (KCRG) - Nothing was going to stop Lisbon's Cael Happel from becoming the 28th wrestler in state history to win four state titles. He knew it was a goal of his in 8th grade when he saw his older brother, Carter, win his fourth state title.

"I just told myself that I wanted to do this, but I wanted to do it better than him," Happel said.

"Carter and Quincy used to win all the time," said Dean Happel, Cael's father. "Cael was the guy who always got second. So he was always coming home without the big trophy. So I think that's what helped drive him to just be the best he could."

To help him reach his goals, Cael found ways to motivate himself. After he won his first state title in 2017 and got a car, he started taping the championship date on his steering wheel to remind of when he'd be a state champion that year.

"It just kind of brings it into reality," he said. "There's some days I don't feel like wrestling at all. My body's tired. Getting in that car and seeing that, that's what I'm working for."

Happel also writes down his goals. The idea was given to him by his Eastern Iowa Wrestling Club coaches. He started writing the goals down in a notebook, then his girlfriend gave him a journal last Christmas. He writes in it every day. It could be a goal or a piece of scripture from the Bible.

"At first, I thought this is pointless, it hurts my hand," Happel said. "Then eventually it burnt into my mind that I want to be a state champ... I'm doing this for a purpose; this is helping me."

He's in the state history books, but his goals aren't over with. He says he also has aspirations to win a national title at Northern Iowa and become an Olympic champion.

"I think the best wrestling is still in front of me," he said.