Four-time All-American Spencer Lee returns to mat for Iowa men’s wrestling

Before his appearance in the Journeymen Collegiate Duals, Lee hadn’t participated in an official match since March 20.


Ryan Adams

Iowa’s Spencer Lee wrestles North Carolina State’s Jakob Camacho during the red pool championship match-up of the National Collegiate Duals between Iowa and North Carolina State at Northwest Florida State College in Niceville, FL on Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2021. Lee defeated Camacho by decision 6-1. The Hawkeyes defeated the Wolfpack 19-15.

Austin Hanson, Sports Editor

NICEVILLE, Fla. — Three-time national champion Spencer Lee wrestled an official match for the first time in nearly nine months this week.

He and the No. 1 Iowa men’s wrestling team traveled to Raider Arena in Niceville, Florida, to compete in the Journeymen Collegiate Duals on Monday and Tuesday.

Lee went 3-0 on the event, picking up notable wins over No. 11 Jaret Lane of Lehigh and No. 5 Jakob Camacho of North Carolina State.

“I liked that Spencer looked like Spencer Lee,” Iowa head coach Tom Brands said of the senior 125-pounder’s performance Monday. “When you look like Spencer Lee, that’s a pretty good thing.”

Lee’s efforts propelled the Hawkeyes to a 3-0 tournament record and a red pool title. Two of Iowa’s wins came against ranked opponents: No. 17 Lehigh and No. 5 North Carolina State.

“I wrestled,” Lee said after Iowa’s Tuesday dual against the Wolfpack. “It was great. It was fun being back.”

The last time Lee wrestled in a Black and Gold singlet in front of spectators was March 20. Lee beat Arizona State’s Brandon Courtney via 7-0 decision that day to claim an individual national title and help his fellow Hawkeyes clinch an NCAA team championship.

After the 2021 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships concluded, Lee revealed that he had wrestled the entire event on two torn ACLs.

Lee missed Iowa’s first three duals of the 2021-22 season against Princeton, Army, and Iowa State.

Even with Lee absent, the Hawkeyes overpowered the Tigers, Black Knights, and Cyclones. Iowa outscored Princeton, Army, and Iowa State, 91-30.

Despite the Hawkeyes’ then-3-0 win-loss record, Lee still wanted to be on the mat with his teammates.

“It really stinks, not wrestling,” Lee said. “You feel like you could’ve set the pace better. So, I gotta do a better job of that . . . It’s a lot different when your team’s wrestling and you’re sitting on the bench the whole time versus when you wrestle and come back. Your nerves are gone. You just go out and put on a show, hopefully. Then, you can just watch and have fun with your brothers.”

Before the Journeymen Wrestling Collegiate Duals kicked off Monday, Lee wasn’t sure if he was going to participate in the event.

Both he and redshirt freshman Jesse Ybarra’s names appeared in Iowa’s probable lineup before the tournament. Ybarra even made the trip to Northwest Florida State College with the Hawkeyes.

“We didn’t even know if I was going to wrestle,” Lee said. “Basically, we didn’t really train like I was gonna wrestle. I mean, we did [train], kinda. Basically, they said it was my call. And I said, ‘I’ll wrestle all the matches. I don’t care.’

“I would wrestle all the matches this year,” Lee added. “But you gotta be smart.”

Lee’s status going forward is unknown. He and Brands did not provide any information pertaining to his upcoming appearances on the mat.

Lee’s next opportunity to compete for the now-6-0 Hawkeyes will come Dec. 29 and 30 in Hoffman Estates, Illinois, as Iowa participates in the 2021 Ken Kraft Midlands Championships at NOW Arena.

Lee hasn’t competed in the Midlands Championships since 2018.

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