Iowa men’s wrestler Spencer Lee continues dominant run in Iowa victory over Nebraska

The senior and three-time NCAA champion pinned Cornhusker Liam Cronin in 38 seconds during the Hawkeyes’ 34-6 win.


Daniel McGregor-Huyer

Iowa’s top-ranked 125-pound Spencer Lee walks off the mat after pinning Northwestern’s No. 3 Michael DeAugustino during a dual between Iowa and Northwestern at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City on Jan. 14, 2023. The Hawkeyes defeated the Wildcats, 27-9.

Matt McGowan, Sports Reporter

Iowa men’s wrestling senior Spencer Lee won his fifth consecutive match by pin in the Iowa men’s wrestling team’s 34-6 victory over Nebraska Saturday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. 

Even in the midst of an undefeated season, the four-time All-American isn’t afraid to admit when he’s nervous. In fact, just hearing his walk-out song, “We Will Rock You,” by Queen, is enough to give him goosebumps. 

“That song plays randomly on the radio and my heart starts pounding,” Lee said in a post-dual press conference. “I’m like, ‘Turn it off, turn it off. I’m good.’ I get nervous, man, everyone gets nervous.” 

In the dual-opening match, the top-ranked Lee took just 38 seconds to force a two-point takedown and then pin Nebraska junior and seventh-ranked Liam Cronin. This was Lee’s 10th career pin in under a minute and tied for the third-fastest fall of his career.

“He chain wrestles; it’s one thing to the next,” Iowa head coach Tom Brands said. “If you watch that takedown tonight, it was an NDZ takedown, it wasn’t even a control takedown. It was a neutral danger zone takedown, then right into near fall, then however you slip out you end up in a cradle and you settle … He chain wrestles and as he chain wrestles, you’re fighting yourself in deeper, deeper, deeper water.” 

Lee agreed with his coach’s description, adding he is always focused on the next point. 

“It’s one thing to another, that’s just how my brain works,” Lee said. “As soon as you get a takedown, you’re catching a wrist, you’re chopping into the stomach, you’re catching into a cradle. Whatever it may be, it’s one thing after another, you’re constantly trying to score points and trying to get into a position that favors you.” 

Lee’s string of dominant performances is a far cry from where he was in January 2022 when the 125-pounder had double-ACL surgery.

Lee tore his right ACL during the 2019 NCAA Championship but did not have surgery at the time. He tore his left ACL in the 2021 Big Ten Championships but wrestled through NCAAs to become a three-time national champion.

He originally decided to forego surgery and pursue alternative rehab methods. After three matches in the Hawkeyes’ 2021-22 slate, however, he decided to sit out the rest of the season and have surgery on both ACLs.

“It’s kind of wild, it’s been over a year since that surgery, I didn’t really think about it,” Lee said. “I kind of kept track of the months; once you get to eight, nine, ten, that’s when you start feeling good, and 12 is when you’re supposed to be 100 percent. I just trust my staff, I’m feeling good and I want to keep it going.” 

The Hawkeyes’ remaining home duals are against perennial wrestling Michigan and Oklahoma State — Lee’s final chances to put on his trademark performance for the Hawkeye home crowd.

“It just means that my job is to go out there and put on a show and entertain,” Lee said. “It doesn’t matter, win or lose, you’ve got to entertain, that’s our job. My job is to win every wrestling match obviously, but ultimately our job is also to put on a show.” 

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