Franklin Regional's Lee on cusp of joining elite group of wrestlers
Spencer Lee's life has been like a book.
While one chapter will end this weekend, a new one will begin. The way things have played out so far, it appears the Franklin Regional senior has many chapters left to write.
Lee is a heavy favorite to capture his fourth PIAA championship Saturday night at Giant Center in Hershey.
He needs four more wins to end his illustrious high school career as only the sixth wrestler in Pennsylvania to achieve this goal without losing a match.
The five four-time undefeated champions in state history are Waynesburg's James Conklin (70-0-1), Clearfield's Jerry Maurey (67-0), Lock Haven's Mike Johnson (84-0), Jefferson-Morgan's Cary Kolat (137-0) and Kennard-Dale's Chance Marsteller (166-0).
“I get to join a cool group if I win a fourth title,” said Lee, a 126-pounder. “Everyone should strive to set goals to go undefeated. It's a goal I've had since fifth grade. Now it's coming to reality, and I'm doing everything I can to help that become reality.”
Throughout his career, Lee has dominated everyone on the mat, starting with his first win in high school, a 16-0 technical fall victory against Wyoming Valley West's James Wright in three minutes.
Lee is 141-0, and only five wins have been by forfeit. In the 136 matches he's wrestled, only nine have gone the full six minutes.
He has never trailed in a match, scoring the first takedown in the first period of every bout. When he gets an opponent down he rarely lets up until the official stops the action. He has 88 pins and 39 technical falls.
“Spencer is a confident wrestler,” said Kolat, the Campbell University (N.C.) coach. “With him, he knows he's going to be a four-time champion, it's just how's he going to do it. He's on a different level.”
Powerade Wrestling Classic director Frank Vulcano said Lee is “above and beyond his age at this level. A three-time world champion and one of the best we've had around his area.”
Lee (32-0) is scheduled to open the PIAA tournament Thursday against the winner of a preliminary-round match between Easton freshman Jonathan Miers (38-8) and Souderton senior Brandon Bach (29-10).
While Lee will be favored in every match, he said he never will look past an opponent. If things go as planned, there is a good chance Lee will get a rematch of the 2016 final against Exeter Township senior Austin DeSanto (51-0); Lee won by technical fall in the second period.
DeSanto said he wanted to face Lee in 2016 and stayed at 126 pounds instead of trying to become a state champion at 132. He figured Lee is his obstacle in trying to make the Olympic team.
In 12 career PIAA tournament matches, Lee has seven pins, four technical falls and a 15-5 major decision, which was in the 2014 finals against General McLane's Joe Wheeling.
“When Spencer transferred in (from Saegertown), we knew he was pretty special,” Franklin Regional coach Matt Lebe said. “I was wrestling with him, and he about ripped my arm off. I knew right away that he was going to be special.”
Mark Uriah, who has called wrestling matches for WJPA radio for more than 35 years, described Lee as “dominant.”
“Guys like this obviously don't come around very often,” Uriah said. “I've said on the air that we probably should appreciate even more of what he has done in his career.
“It's amazing what he's done. There aren't many wrestlers who have gone through their high school careers undefeated, and he's close to doing that.”
Uriah said Kolat is the first that comes to mind among greatest WPIAL wrestlers but also remembered fondly the elite North Allegheny teams from the 1990s.
“I've seen a lot of outstanding wrestlers over the years, and then there are the ones that stand out like Cary and Spencer,” Uriah said.
Larry Maggi, who has been officiating for 46 years, also had high praise for Lee and where he stands among WPIAL greats.
“I've seen a lot of great wrestlers over the years, and he's one of the best. He's up there with Kolat and Coleman Scott (from Waynesburg),” Maggi said. “And he's still making history.”
He just has to write a storybook ending for his high school career this weekend.