The Daily Iowan names Spencer Lee 2020-21 Male Athlete of the Year

Lee won individual titles at both the Big Ten and NCAA championships in 2020-21.


Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Mar 20, 2021; St. Louis, Missouri, USA; Iowa Hawkeyes wrestler Spencer Lee is introduced prior to the championship match of the 125 weight class against Arizona State Sun Devils wrestler Brandon Courtney during the finals of the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships at Enterprise Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Austin Hanson, Sports Editor

Following his run at both individual and team national championships in 2020-21, Iowa wrestling’s Spencer Lee has been named Male Athlete of the Year by The Daily Iowan. The DI’s sports staff bestowed the honor upon Lee in unanimity.

On March 20, Lee won his third-straight individual national championship, and the Hawkeyes claimed the 24th NCAA wrestling team title in University of Iowa history.

With one exception, Lee tacked bonus points onto the Hawkeyes’ team score in each of his matches last year — winning via fall, technical fall, or major decision.

The only opponent Lee faced that did not allow him to score bonus points was Arizona State’s Brandon Courtney. In the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championship finals at the Enterprise Center in St. Louis, Missouri, Lee defeated Courtney by 7-0 decision to cap his run at a national title. Iowa went on to finish the NCAA tournament 15.5 points clear of all its competition.

Lee finished the 2021 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships 5-0, outscoring his opponents, 59-8. Lee is the seventh three-time national champion in UI history.

Eight days prior to the start of the NCAA tournament, Lee suffered a torn ACL in his knee. After he defeated Courtney and stood atop the 125-pound podium, Lee revealed his injury.

RELATED: Iowa wrestling’s Spencer Lee overcomes knee injury, wins national title

“It’s not really my motto to make excuses or anything, but I tore my ACL in my other knee [eight days ago],” Lee said during a March 20 videoconference. “Didn’t wrestle at all. Had probably three three-hour workouts every day to help this. Tough it out. Doesn’t matter. No excuses. I don’t really want to talk about it that much more. I just want people to know, we go through a lot as wrestlers.”

RELATED: Iowa wrestling’s Spencer Lee speaks on withdrawal from U.S. Olympic Trials

Two weeks before his national championship victory, Lee also won the Big Ten Championships’ 125-pound division. The Murrysville, Pennsylvania, native outscored all three opponents he faced in State College, Pennsylvania, 44-7. Lee won two of the matches he wrestled at the Big Ten tournament via technical fall and another via pin. Lee is the 57th wrestler in UI history to win more than one Big Ten title.

Lee’s efforts in State College allowed the Hawkeyes to score 159.5 team points and finish 35.5 points clear of all their competitors.

During the regular season, Lee went 4-0, defeating all his adversaries via pin. Iowa only competed in three dual meets and two triangular meets in 2020-21, as the Big Ten Conference forced its teams to wrestle reduced league-only schedules because of COVID-19.

Three of the seven matches the Hawkeyes were scheduled to wrestle last season were canceled in response to positive COVID-19 test results recorded within Iowa’s wrestling room.

Despite his reduced regular season match load, Lee’s NCAA and Big Ten titles were enough to garner a bevy of honors. The incoming fifth-year senior won his second-straight Dan Hodge Trophy and the Big Ten Wrestler of the Year award last season.

RELATED: Iowa wrestling’s Spencer Lee wins second-straight Hodge Trophy

Lee finished 2021 12-0, outscoring everyone he faced by a combined score of 141-15.

Lee will utilize the extra year of eligibility the NCAA granted all its winter sports athletes to return to Iowa for the 2021-22 wrestling season and pursue his fourth NCAA individual title. Lee is currently riding a 35-match win streak that has seen him outscore all challengers, 432-42.

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