Franklin Regional's Lee moves forward after stunning loss
Franklin Regional senior Spencer Lee told his dad he's ready to move on after his stunning and controversial loss to Exeter Township senior Austin DeSanto on Saturday at the PIAA Class AAA championships at the Giant Center.
Lee, who will wrestle at Iowa next year, was competing injured after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament in January.
While he was urged not to wrestle after UPMC's Dr. James Bradley, the Steelers team doctor, diagnosed the injury, Lee told FR coach Matt Lebe and his dad, Larry, he wasn't going to end his season in the doctor's office.
“Spencer said his dream was to become a four-time state champion and he wanted to complete his goal,” Lebe said. “It shows what type of kid Spencer is. There are a lot of athletes with an ACL injury that wouldn't attempt what he did.”
DeSanto defeated Lee, 6-5, when he was awarded a takedown as time expired. Videos and photos showed time had run out before DeSanto completed the takedown.
Instead of being a four-time undefeated champion, Lee had to settle for a 144-1 career record and three state titles.
Lee spent the past month biking and swimming; he did little work on the mat.
He reinjured his knee during the semifinals at the WPIAL championships and tweaked it again during the semifinals Saturday morning.
Lee did not blame the loss on his injury, though it was obvious he had limited lateral movement and was wearing a large brace on his knee.
“Spencer had nothing to prove,” Lebe said. “He could have ended the season when he learned of the injury. But that's not Spencer. He wanted to finish what he started.”
Lee has surgery scheduled for April. He also was forced to pull out of the Pittsburgh Wrestling Classic later this month.
“He wanted to wrestle in the classic,” Lebe said. “I think Spencer and Austin should be commended how they competed. I believe the videos and pictures are hard to dispute.
“There is no doubt that he's the best ever. He'll prove that at Iowa and the Olympics.”
Some other highlights from the weekend:
• The WPIAL dominated the Class AAA tournament with 34 placewinners, including five champions — North Hills freshman Sam Hillegas (113 pounds), Hempfield senior Jarod Verkleeren (145), Penn-Trafford senior Cam Coy (152), North Allegheny senior Jake Woodley (195) and Canon-McMillan senior Brendan Furman (285). Losing in the finals were Shaler sophomore Ryan Sullivan (106), Seneca Valley junior Louis Newell (113), Lee (126), Bethel Park senior Nino Bonaccorsi (182), Laurel Highlands junior Ian Edenfield (220) and Kiski Area junior Isaac Reid (285).
The WPIAL had 54 wrestlers qualify for the PIAA tournament. Their combined record was 150-98 (0.605 winning percentage). District 11 had 22 medalists, District 1 had 19 and District 3 had 17.
• Coy said he wanted to lead Penn-Trafford past Hempfield in the team standings, and he did. Penn-Trafford finished 11th with 43 points, and Hempfield was 12th with 41.
Joining Coy as a placewinner for Penn-Trafford was senior Matt McGillick, who finished sixth at 182.
Hempfield had three placewinners: Verkleeren, junior Luke Kemerer, who finished sixth at 148, and senior Vincent Distefanis, who was eighth at 120.
Other Westmoreland County placewinners in Class AAA were: Greensburg Salem senior Alec Shaw (sixth at 170), Norwin freshman Kurtis Phipps (seventh at 106), Kiski Area sophomore Darren Miller (third at 106), Belle Vernon senior Jake Dunlop (eighth at 113), Kiski Area junior Noah Levett (sixth at 126) and Belle Vernon junior Brock Godzin (fifth at 152).
• Frazier freshman Thayne Lawrence and Laurel Highlands junior Ian Edenfield made history for their schools.
Lawrence, who finished third at 138 in Class AA, was the first Commodore wrestler to earn a state medal, and Edenfield, who placed second at 220, was the Mustangs' first finalist and placewinner.
• More than 43,000 attended the three-day PIAA tournament at Giant Center.