April 2021

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19 I t was a fitting way for the 2021 college wrestling season to end. e most dominate wrestler on the most dominant team methodically dissected his fih opponent in the 125-pound bracket at the 2021 NCAA Championships inside the Enterprise Center in St. Louis. Spencer Lee, no ACLs and all, blanked Arizona State's Brandon Courtney 7-0 to win his third individual national title March 20. On this particular run through the bracket, Lee outscored opponents, 59-8. Despite that lopsided point differential, Lee acknowledged the difficulties he faced during the three-day tournament. He questioned whether he could compete at all and said the option of a medical forfeit was also discussed. "is was definitely my toughest," Lee told ESPN aer the finals match. He explained that he tore an ACL "eight days ago" in the "other" knee. at would be his le ACL. He then revealed the other "other" ACL was torn in the second period of a 5-0 win against Jack Mueller of Virginia in the 2019 NCAA finals match. at would be the right ACL. Neither were repaired. Lee said he could hardly shoot and couldn't sprawl at the 2021 Championships. In other words, he could barely wrestle, which seems remarkable since he is on a 35-match winning streak. rough the recent adversity, Lee didn't make a peep. He didn't wince or complain while steamrolling Patrick McCormick of Virginia, 16-1, Killian Cardinale of West Virginia, 15-5, Devin Schroder of Purdue, 10-2, or Drew Hildebrandt of Central Michigan, 11-0. Remember, these are NCAA qualifiers he treated like glorified workout dummies. "Eff excuses," Lee said. "Excuses are for wusses. ere was no doubt. It was, hey, no one can do this but you." e 125-pound match drew top billing from the NCAA and was contested as the 10th and final bout of the nationally televised event. Lee, the defending Hodge Trophy winner, did a three-minute stalk of Courtney, who spent most of the period wearing dancing shoes and circling the edge of the mat. Lee selected the down position to start the second period and escaped in six seconds. Courtney was assessed a stall warning at the 1:40 mark of the second period and a little more than a minute later, Lee earned a takedown for a 3-0 lead. e advantage increased to 4-0 aer Courtney was whistled for a third caution. Courtney was saved by the bell at the end of the second period when Lee tilted him to his back and earned a swipe before time ran out. A second takedown early in the third period extended Lee's lead to 6-0. He added a riding time point for the 7-0 final. "When it's time to show up, he is for real," Iowa head coach Tom Brands said. "Spencer buried the competition; not a point scored in the NCAA finals. He went through a tournament with whatever injuries he had and still dominated." Lee has won his three NCAA finals matches by a combined score of 17-1. His career record is 75-5 and he is 15-0 at three NCAA Championships. e Hawkeyes won their fourth NCAA team championship in 14 years by scoring 129 points, 15 ½ more than runner-up Penn State. Iowa had seven All- Americans, three finalists and the 10 Hawkeyes combined to win 38 of 51 matches. "You can't win a team title with one guy," Lee said. "Even if I pinned every opponent, the most I could score is 30 points and I'm pretty sure the second and third-place teams were at or above 100. You can't win it with one guy, you have to win it with the team. at's all that matters. It takes a team effort." Lee becomes the seventh Iowa wrestler to win three NCAA titles. at group also includes Ed Banach, Tom Brands, Barry Davis, Lincoln McIlravy, Joe Williams and Jim Zalesky. "I go out, wrestle my hardest, score points for seven minutes or more if needed," Lee said. "I won three, awesome, good for me. We won the team title, awesome. at's what we came here to do. is is what I wanted, this is what I have been training for my whole life." On March 29, for a second straight season, Lee was awarded the Dan Hodge Trophy, presented annually to the nation's best wrestler. Lee shared the honor with Minnesota heavyweight Gable Steveson.

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