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College Wrestling: Spencer Lee wins NCAA Championship, Hawkeyes capture team title

This news story was published on March 21, 2021.
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Spencer Lee

ST. LOUIS – University of Iowa senior Spencer Lee won the 125-pound NCAA Championship Saturday night, becoming the seventh three-time national champion in program history and putting an exclamation point on the Hawkeyes’ 2021 NCAA team title.

Lee defeated Arizona State’s Brandon Courtney, 7-0. He scored four points in the second period from an escape, caution point and takedown, and added another takedown in the third to go along with one minute, 44 seconds of riding time. He was 5-0 in the tournament, outscoring his opponents, 59-8. His seven-point margin of victory was the largest of any of the 10 championships matches.

“I go out there and wrestle my hardest and I score points for seven minutes or more if needed,” Lee said. “I won three (titles), awesome. Good for me. We won the team title, awesome. That’s what we came here to do. This is what I wanted and this is what I’ve been training for my whole life. Now we worry about what’s next. That’s all that matters.”

Lee was one of three Hawkeyes in the finals and one of seven to finish the tournament with All-America honors. Seniors Jaydin Eierman and Michael Kemerer both dropped overtime decisions in their respective matches. Iowa locked up the team title Saturday afternoon in the medal round.

“We were one for three in the finals. There is a lot of processing going on here,” said Iowa head coach Tom Brands. “I think it’s time to enjoy. That’s hard for me to say but as a leader of the program I have to steer it that way because our fan base has craved this. This isn’t automatic. This was earned.”

Iowa finished the team race with 129 points, 15.5 clear of second-place Penn State. The team title is the 24th in program history and the first since 2010.

“It’s been 11 years since a real important trophy has been in Iowa City, and this team, the 35 guys back in that wrestling room and these 10 guys here, and this coaching staff and administration, brought a trophy back that is important to our fan base. That has got to be said. Is there relief, not really, but there is joy,” Brands said.

Iowa’s chase for the national title was expected to come to an end 52 weeks ago, but the COVID-19 pandemic ended a season that saw the Hawkeyes entering the national tournament as the undisputed favorite. When cleared to return to competition in January of 2021, Iowa picked up right where it left off and continued its run as the top team in the country. In doing so, it honored that 2020 team that never had a chance to prove the same.

“You do your job as an individual and team titles will come,” said Lee, “and I just want to say something quick. I didn’t just do this for me. I did it for the seniors that lost out last year. I wanted them to win with us. They didn’t get that opportunity, so I don’t even care about this trophy right now. I want to give it to my one brother who wasn’t able to compete last year. We do our job as individuals and our team title will come.”

One through 10, the Hawkeyes did their job. Each of Iowa’s 10 qualifiers contributed to the winning point total. Collectively Iowa was 38-14 in the NCAA tournament, scoring bonus points in 21 matches. The tournament was decided Saturday morning when the Hawkeyes went 6-1 on the back side of the bracket.

“You can’t win a team title with just one guy,” Lee said. “Even if I pinned every single opponent the most I can score is 30 points, and I’m pretty sure the second and third place teams were above 100. You can’t win it with one guy. You have to win it with a team. That’s all that matters. It takes a team effort.”

Iowa finished the season with its 24th national championship, 37th Big Ten championship and a Big Ten regular season title. Four Hawkeyes won Big Ten titles and seven earned All-America honors at the national tournament.

Iowa won its 24th NCAA team title, its fourth under head coach Tom Brands.
Iowa wrestlers had a combined record of 38-14 in the NCAA tournament, scoring bonus points in 21 matches.
Iowa had five wrestlers place third or better for the first time since 2010.
Iowa had seven All-Americans, its highest total since 2010 (8).
Tom Brands was named 2021 NWCA National Coach of the Year.
Spencer Lee, Jaydin Eierman and Michael Kemerer became four-time All-Americans. Lee and Kemerer are the 21st and 22nd wrestlers in program history to earn four All-America honors wrestling at Iowa. Eierman won three All-America honor at Missouri.
Iowa has had at least five All-Americans in eight straight seasons and 13 times in head coach Tom Brands’ 15 years.
The Hawkeyes have won a team trophy in 12 of the last 13 national tournaments.
Lee has outscored his four opponents 59-8 on his way to the title. He improved to 15-0 in his career at the NCAA Wrestling Championships, outscoring those 15 opponents 176-21.
Lee has won 35 straight matches, outscoring his opponents, 432-42.
Lee is the seventh three-time NCAA champion in program history, joining the ranks of Ed Banach (1981, 81, 83), Barry Davis (1982, 83, 85), Jim Zalesky (1982-84), Tom Brands (1990-92), Lincoln McIlravy (1993, 94, 97) and Joe Williams (1996-98).

133 – #2 Roman Bravo-Young (PSU) dec. #1 Daton Fix (PSU), 4-2 SV1
141 – #2 Nick Lee (PSU) dec. #1 Jaydin Eierman (Iowa), 4-2 SV1
157 – #3 David Carr (ISU) vs. #4 Jesse Dellavecchia (RID), 4-0
165 – #8 Shane Griffith (STAN) dec. #3 Jake Wentzell (PITT), 6-2
174 – #3 Carter Starocci (PSU) dec. #1 Michael Kemerer (Iowa), 3-1 SV1
184 – #1 Aaron Brooks (PSU) dec. #2 Trent Hidlay (NCST), 3-2
197 – #4 A.J. Ferrari (OKST) dec. #6 Nino Bonaccorsi (PITT), 4-2
285 – #1 Gable Steveson (MINN) dec. #2 Mason Parris (MICH), 8-4
125 – #1 Spencer Lee (Iowa) dec. #3 Brandon Courtney (ASU), 7-0

IOWA 129
Penn State 113.5
Oklahoma St. 99.5
Arizona State 74.0
Michigan 69.0
NC State 68.0
Missouri 64.0
Minnesota 64.0
Ohio State 46.5
Northwestern 45.0

125 – Spencer Lee, 1st
133 – Austin DeSanto, 3rd
141 – Jaydin Eierman, 2nd
157 – Kaleb Young, 7th
174 – Michael Kemerer, 2nd
197 – Jacob Warner, 4th
285 – Tony Cassioppi, 3rd

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