With an impressive 82 percent majority from the NCAA Wrestling Twitter poll, Spencer Lee of Iowa has been named NCAA Wrestler of the Week. The 125-pound freshman rightly claimed the honor after handing the top-ranked fifth-year senior Nathan Tomasello of Ohio State his first loss of the season. Tomasello was last week’s NCAA Wrestler of the Week.
On Sunday, all eyes were locked on the awaited Lee vs. Tomasello matchup. With a top-ranked wrestler facing the first true freshman to compete for the varsity squad under head coach Tom Brands, there’s not much else that needs to be said. In front of a jam-packed hometown crowd, Tomasello hoped to end his Buckeye home dual career on a high note. Lee, however, had other plans in mind. Even with a hostile atmosphere violently threatening his confidence, Lee wasn’t phased.
Vote for the NCAA Wrestler of the Week! #NCAAWrestling— NCAA Wrestling (@ncaawrestling) January 24, 2018
In the first period, Tomasello had several opportunities to finish on high crotches, yet Lee proved his flexibility and was able to fight off the attempts. Time came to a standstill and the match was still scoreless. Starting off the second period, Lee noticeably forced heavy forward pressure onto Tomasello as he continued to fight wrists. With a dominant ride-out for Lee to end the second period, only Tomasello headed into the third scoreless. As the dual entered its final period, Tomasello initiated the action after connecting on a takedown, sending the crowd into absolute pandemonium. Lee, however, quickly responded with an escape to lead 3-2 with under 50 seconds left. Repeating his first period moves, Tomasello got into a deep high crotch attempt, but Lee defied the odds and fought it off, holding onto a 3-2 victory.
Undefeated in high school, Lee won three straight Pennsylvania state titles (2014-16). Lee was also a Cadet world champion and two-time world champion. Yet halfway through his senior season, adversity came knocking on Lee’s doorstep. Amidst tearing his ACL, he was advised by all to stop wrestling. Despite the suggestions, he instead sat out for five weeks. He then won sectionals while still nursing the injury, and advanced to state where he lost his only high school match.
In his first action since joining Iowa’s wrestling team, Lee wrestled unattached in two tournaments last October. Although he lost one to 10th-ranked Ronnie Bresser of Oregon State 3-1, his 15-0 technical fall over Edinboro’s Sean Russell proved his ability to compete against top competition.
On Jan. 5, all 8,486 fans in Carver-Hawkeye Arena focused their attention to Lee when his redshirt was pulled. His unveiling came to feel as a teaser though, as Lee recorded a pin only 46 seconds in to his matchup against Michigan State’s Rayvon Foley.
The victory over No. 1 Nathan Tomasello improved his overall record to 9-1, standing 3-0 with two top-six wins since coming out of redshirt. Lee has the opportunity to face another true freshman phenomenon in Michigan’s Drew Mattin on Saturday.