Lee named co-winner of AAU James E. Sullivan Award

Alongside Oregon women's basketball's Sabrina Ionescu, Iowa wrestling's Spencer Lee has been named a co-winner of the 2020 AAU James E. Sullivan Award.


Nichole Harris

Iowa's 125-pound Spencer Lee grapples with Purdue's Devin Schroder during the final session of the Big Ten Wrestling Tournament in Piscataway, NJ, on Sunday, March 8, 2020. Lee won by major decision 16-2, securing the 125-pound championship, and Iowa won the team title with 157.5 points.

Austin Hanson, Assistant Sports Editor

For just the second time in the award’s 90-year history, two athletes have been named AAU James E. Sullivan Award recipients. Iowa wrestling’s Spencer Lee and Oregon women’s basketball’s Sabrina Ionescu were named co-winners of the award Wednesday evening.

“I am incredibly humbled,” Lee said. “It was an honor to be nominated and reach the finals, so to be selected among this incredible group of individuals is pretty special. It is great to be the fifth wrestler to win the award, and it is really special to be able to represent the University of Iowa. I am happy to share this award with Sabrina. All of the finalists are deserving. I am very surprised and very thankful.”

Ionescu was recently drafted by the New York Liberty with the first overall selection in 2020 WNBA Draft. During her time at Oregon, Ionescu became the first NCAA basketball player to collect at least 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds, and 1,000 assists in a career.

For Lee, the James E. Sullivan Award is the latest addition to a long list of postseason achievements and accolades. Lee has already been named both Big Ten Wrestler of the Year and NCAA Most Dominant Wrestler of the Year.

Lee also earned a Hodge Trophy after an 18-0 season. He outscored his opponents 234-18, won a Big Ten title, and drew a top seed at 125-pounds for the 2020 NCAA Championships.

Lee is just the fifth wrestler to win the James E. Sullivan Award, joining the likes of Rulon Gardner, Bruce Baumgartner, John Smith, and Kyle Snyder.

Among the finalists for this year’s award were Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence, Marquette men’s basketball’s Markus Howard, and Wisconsin volleyball’s Dana Rettke.

Representatives from the Amateur Athletic Union created the James E. Sullivan Award in an effort to recognize the contributions and achievements of amateur athletes across the country. Athletes nominated for the award must demonstrate athletic success, leadership, sportsmanship, and character.

Golfer Bobby Jones won the first James E. Sullivan Award in 1930. Quarterback Peyton Manning, running back Ezekiel Elliott, basketball player Bill Walton, swimmer Michael Phelps, and quarterback Tim Tebow round out an impressive list of notable James E. Sullivan Award-winners.

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