Lee becomes 3-time champ on bad knee, Iowa wins team title
ST. LOUIS (AP) — Iowa won its first NCAA wrestling team title since 2010, and Hawkeyes star Spencer Lee took his third individual title Saturday night competing on a badly injured knee.
Already one of Iowa’s greats, Lee further burnished his image in the state’s wrestling lore when he revealed after his 7-0 victory over Arizona State’s Brandon Courtney that he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in one of his knees eight days earlier.
The 125-punder outscored his opponents 59-8 in St. Louis to become the seventh Iowa wrestler, and first since 1998, to win three national titles. His match against Courtney was the only one this season in which he didn’t earn bonus points.
“This is definitely my toughest,” he said about the tournament. “I’m wrestling with no ACLs. Whatever. I didn’t want to tell anyone because that’s excuses. ... And you know what, that was a tough tournament for me. I could barely wrestle, I could barely shoot, I can’t sprawl. I believed in my coaching staff and everyone believed in me, and here I am.”
For Iowa, Lee’s performance was the highlight of an evening session that saw its other two finalists lose.
Iowa went into the finals already having secured its 24th team championship following strong performances in the medal round. The Hawkeyes ended up with 129 points.
Since winning its first team title in 1975, Iowa had not gone so long without winning another.
“It puts in context the work we had to do, how far we were off,” coach Tom Brands said. “We were 1 for 3 in the finals. There’s a lot of processing going on here. It’s a night to enjoy, and that’s really hard to say, but as the leader of the program I’ve got to steer it that way because our fan base has created this. This isn’t automatic. This was earned.”
Penn State, which had won four straight team titles and eight of the last nine, came in second with 113.5 points. All four of the Nittany Lions’ finalists won.
One of the most emotional moments of the tournament came when eighth-seeded 165-pounder Shane Griffith of Stanford won 6-2 over No. 3 Jake Wentzel of Pittsburgh in what could have been the Cardinal program’s final match.
Stanford announced in July that wrestling and 10 other sports would be dropped to save money. Wrestling alumni organized a fundraiser in an attempt to endow the program, and as of Saturday they had raised $12.5 million.
The Enterprise Center crowd, limited because of the pandemic, chanted “Keep Stanford Wrestling” as Griffith exited the mat, and he wore a hoodie bearing the same message.
“I have received so much support here, and I’m just hoping for the best,” said Griffith, who competed in a black singlet with no Stanford logo. “I want to make this nationally known. We have young guys staying and fighting the battle.”
133: No. 2 Roman Bravo-Young of Penn State scored a quick takedown in overtime for a 4-2 win over No. 1 Daton Fix of Oklahoma State. Fix, who last month came off a one-year suspension for testing positive for a banned substance, also lost an overtime match in the 2019 final.
141: No. 2 Nick Lee of Penn State avenged his loss to No. 1 Jaydin Eierman of Iowa in the Big Ten finals two weeks ago, scoring a takedown 19 seconds into overtime for a 4-2 win.
149: No. 2 Austin O’Connor won North Carolina’s first title since 1995 when he held off a takedown attempt by Ohio State’s top-seeded Sammy Sasso at the edge of the mat as time ran out. Buckeyes coach Tom Ryan challenged, contending Sasso, down 3-2, should have been awarded the two points. Video review upheld the official’s ruling of no takedown.
157: No. 3 David Carr of Iowa State won 4-0 over fourth-seeded Jesse Dellavecchia, the first finalist in Rider program history. Carr’s first national title came 40 years after his father, Nate, won the first of his three for the Cyclones.
174: Third-seeded Carter Starocci of Penn State won 3-1 in overtime against No. 1 Michael Kemerer of Iowa. Starocci had lost 7-2 to the previously unbeaten Kemerer in the Big Ten final.
184: No. 1 Aaron Brooks finished a perfect season with a 3-2 win over No. 2 Trent Hidlay of North Carolina State. A stalling call cost Hidlay a point in the third period, and Brooks staved off Hidlay’s late takedown attempt.
197: AJ Ferrari, seeded fourth, won 4-2 over No. 6 Nino Bonaccorsi of Pittsburgh to become the first true freshman in 30 years to win a national title for Oklahoma State.
285: Top-seeded Gable Steveson of Minnesota finished a dominant perfect season with an 8-4 win over No. 2 Mason Parris of Michigan. Steveson, who won by major decision over Parris in the Big Ten final, prevailed in his closest match since he beat Parris 8-6 last year.