Lee shines again, captures second NCAA title
Iowa sophomore Spencer Lee calls himself a Pokemon nerd. His Iowa teammates call him the baddest man on the planet.
You can just call the 2017 Franklin Regional graduate a two-time NCAA Division I champion.
With many of his friends and coaches among the throng of hometown fans in attendance, Lee defended his 125-pound national title Saturday at the at PPG Paints Arena.
Lee, who entered the tournament seeded third, rolled through his competition for the second consecutive season, this time handing Virginia junior Jack Mueller his first loss of the season, 5-0. He outscored his opponents 55-7 in his five matches as he improved to 23-3.
He was carried out of the interview room by Hawkeyes heavyweight Sam Stoll.
When he returned to the main floor to receive his plaque, he spent time hugging and talking with his friends and coaches from Franklin Regional.
“It was great,” Lee said about winning the title. “I went through a lot of adversity this year. But I really attribute all of my success to my coaches and my teammates who believed in me every step of the way even when maybe I didn’t believe in myself.”
Lee missed some of the season, but he would not confirm why.
But he was able to bounce back, and, despite losses to Oklahoma State’s Nick Piccininni and Northwestern’s Sebastian Rivera, was able to prevail.
“I don’t make excuses,” Lee said. “I got beat. Everyone has losses. They beat me fair and square. Doesn’t matter if you’re hurt, injured, sick, who cares?
“This is a gladiator sport. We’re tough guys, and we put everything on the line. And props to Jack Mueller. He put everything on the line.”
Lee jumped out to a 2-0 with a takedown in the first minute of the match. He made it 3-0 when he received a penalty point in the second period, and he finished off Mueller with a takedown in the third period.
“I remember losing to Oklahoma State and freaking,” Lee said. “I had the whole team grab me and telling me they loved me, and we were a family and we’re going to be in this together.
“And I know that moment is when I said I’ve got to move on. I’ve got to be the better version of myself.”
During his news conference, all of his teammates invaded the room, and Stoll even asked a question or two.
“(Iowa head associate) Terry Brands always tells me big-time wrestlers show up at big-time moments,” Lee said. “We preach that at the University of Iowa, and everyone on my team believes that they’re a big-time wrestler because that’s the mindset you have to have to be in this sport.
“We preach that: Big-time wrestlers show up at big-time matches. I believe that, too.”
And Lee dismissed his doubters on social media.
“I don’t really care if people don’t believe in me, because I’m the one who’s got to do it,” Lee said. “There are people that believed in me, too.”
Lee was asked if he’s thinking about becoming a four-time champion.
“I don’t really care about being a four-time,” he said. “I can’t worry about four-time national champ because you can’t win four if you don’t win three, and I haven’t won three yet.”
He will attempt that at Minneapolis next March.
Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Paul by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .