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Shannon Scovel | NCAA.com | February 7, 2021

Tracking Spencer Lee's quest for a perfect wrestling season

Relive Iowa's Spencer Lee defending his 125 pound title

Two-time NCAA champion. Big Ten Champion. Hodge Trophy winner. AAU Sullivan Award. 

Iowa's Spencer Lee has had three nearly perfect seasons as a Hawkeye and might do something this season exceptionally rare in DI men's wrestling — score bonus points against 100 percent of all his opponents. A bonus-point win is defined as any win in which one wrestler scores eight or more points than an opponent. This can include major decisions (a win by a margin of 8-14 points), tech falls (a win by a margin of 15 points) or pins. We're going to track his matches the rest of this season and update this article as Lee progresses. Here's a quick guide to how college wrestling matches are scored if you'd like a refresher.

Lee has just five losses in his entire collegiate career — two to Big Ten champion Sebastian Rivera, one to All-American Nick Piccininni, one to NCAA champion Nathan Tomasello and one to All-American Ronnie Bresser — but he has not lost a college wrestling match since March 9, 2019, in sudden victory. In fact, he's not only been winning since then, but he's dominated. He's outscored his opponents 246-23 with eight falls in the last 26 matches. Eighteen of those 26 matches have ended early, either because of a pin or a tech fall. These statistics helped Lee win NCAA Wrestling's Most Dominant Wrestling award last year, but he's upped his game even more this season. 

He won national titles at 125 pounds as a true freshman and a sophomore before COVID-19 interfered with his plans to chase a third title last season. Lee has embraced his role as the face of the Iowa Hawkeye program, one of the most successful NCAA programs of all time, and he continues to add to his legacy every time he steps on the mat. 

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Lee is 3-for-3 so far this year with three first-period pins. 

First dual: Jan. 15, 2021, Carver-Hawkeye Arena - No. 1 Spencer Lee vs. No. 17 Liam Cronin


Lee came out of the gates flying in his 2021 season debut. Wrestling Liam Cronin of Nebraska, a fifth-place finisher in last year's Big Ten championships, Lee wasted no time. He swung around and grabbed hold of Cronin's right ankle 5 seconds in the match and took him down for the first two points of the match 5 seconds later. Lee then started to go to work on top, riding Cronin and looking for the arm bar. Cronin was trapped, and a stall call was given to the Nebraska senior for his lack of movement and action, but, at that point, 60 seconds into the match, Lee was in charge. Eight seconds later, Lee had flipped Cronin over to his back to pick up four near-fall points while Cronin worked to arch his way out. Cronin managed to work his way back over to his stomach, but Lee just picked up right where he left off in the last sequence. He wrestled his way over the top of Cronin, put both Cronin's shoulder blades on the mat, and that was that.

One win, one pin, 100 percent bonus. 

Total running time on the mat for the season: 1:21

Second dual: Jan. 22, 2021, Maturi Pavilion - No. 1 Spencer Lee vs. No. 9 Pat McKee


Against Minnesota’s Pat McKee, a fellow Big Ten wrestler-of-the-week honoree this season, Lee was his normal poised, confident self. He showed a little more patience in the early seconds in picking his spot, but he still demonstrated his control by driving through towards McKee’s right leg about 30 seconds in the bout for his first two-point takedown and back points.

McKee wrestled back to his stomach, but then Lee was again on the attack, titling McKee over for four more near-fall points. He continued to push for more but was stopped by the referee for a potentially dangerous call. The reset didn’t help McKee too much, as Lee was still on top, still in control and still looking for the fall. He worked McKee over to his back, laid his body on top of McKee’s shoulders and pushed for the pin but picked up near-fall points again instead. Lee could have titled McKee once more for the tech, but he wanted more. He secured his hold and drove McKee to his back with his trademark arm bar. 

Two wins, two pins. 100 percent bonus. 

Total running time on the mat for the season: 3:16

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Third dual: Jan. 31, Carver-Hawkeye Arena- No. 1 Spencer Lee vs. No. 13 Justin Cardani


Justin Cardani, a redshirt sophomore, came out with speed and energy, and he looked fired up to take on the two-time NCAA Champion Lee. The problem for Cardani was that even with his quick feet and adrenaline, Lee was too much. Lee, again, controlled Cardani’s head and swung around Cardani’s right side for a quick two-point takedown. This is where things started going wrong for Cardani. Once he’s on top, Lee is a force of nature, and he started to go to work against Cardani. He picked up three back points and then one more back point wrestling Cardani on the edge before both wrestlers moved out of bounds and were sent back to the middle. 

Lee’s plan was clear from this point. He controlled Cardani’s wrist, pulled Cardani’s left hand down to work for the tilt. Cardani battled, gripping Lee’s right foot and pick up a stalemate call and stop Lee’s momentum at this point in the bout. He drove Caradani into the ground but couldn’t flip him immediately as time ticked down in the first period. As Cardani caught his breath, Lee continued wrestling, working Cardani to his right side for back points and kept the pressure on. Lee then reset himself and pulled Cardani to his back. Cardani fought, flipping around on the mat trying to avoid the pin, but his shoulders touched briefly as he continued to move before the official call was made. 

Three wins, three pins. 100 percent bonus.

Total running time on the mat for the season: 5:46

Fourth dual: Feb. 7, Holloway Gymnasium- No. 1 Spencer Lee vs. Brady Koontz

Spencer Lee came out against Brady Koontz ready to rock and roll. The Iowa senior sat out the Purdue dual earlier in the day, but in his only match of the weekend, he reminded the Big Ten that he's still as powerful as the conference thought he was. After two seconds of fast hand-fighting against Koontz off the whistle, Lee took a quick shot at Koontz right leg, flipped him around, and took him down for a fast two points. In traditional Spencer Lee fashion, the Hawkeye then took control of the wrists. He looked for an early pin, nearly holding Koontz on his back, but, instead, the ref awarded him four back points. Another tilt gave him four more back points, and he was working for the fall for the second time before the ref called a potentially dangerous and sent the men back to the center of the mat. Koontz made an attempt to escape, but Lee, who hasn't given up any points this season, threw Koontz back on the mat and worked for four more back points. Lee repositioned himself, slid his arm in between Koontz's arm and his back and worked the Buckeye to his back with the half-nelson for the pin. Koontz barely had a chance to move in the 108-second match, but that's what Lee does to his opponents. He's a pinner this year, and he's letting that be known. 

Four wins, four pins. 100 percent bonus. 

Total running time on the mat for the season: 7:14

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