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Hawkeye Wrestling Club’s Spencer Lee reaches semifinals, withdraws from U.S. Open tournament
Lee is ‘physically unable to continue in the event this weekend’ according his father, Larry Lee, in Flowrestling interview
LAS VEGAS — Just hours after Spencer Lee advanced to the semifinals of the U.S. Open his tournament ended.
In a snippet of an interview posted by Flowrestling.com, Lee’s father, Larry Lee, announced that his son is withdrawing from the U.S. Open, which ends his chances to make the 2023 U.S. World Team.
“Spencer is going to be physically unable to continue in the event this weekend,” Larry Lee said in an interview with Flowrestling.com’s Christian Pyles. “So, I’m sad to say, and (Spencer) he’s sad, that’s he’s going to have to withdraw from the competition.”
The three-time age-level World champion made his first freestyle appearance since winning the U.S. Senior Nationals in December of 2019 and since undergoing surgeries to repair torn anterior cruciate ligaments in both knees.
“We knew entering the U.S. Open was a push, in terms of timing,” Larry Lee said. “He would never say this, and he will never say this, and that’s one of the things I admire most about Spencer, is often times I wish he would be more candid, because I think he leaves a lot unsaid and let the mind ponder and speculate.”
Lee continued, “Spencer knew this was tight, coming off the NCAA’s, where he’s not 100 percent. He wasn’t 100 percent. There’s been some criticism for that decision.”
The elder Lee insisted that no one wanted to wrestle in the U.S. Open more than his son, noting that he is among many wrestlers who compete sick or injured and receive a backlash for withdrawing and falling short of enormous expectations.
The No. 2 seed at 57 kilograms was untouchable early, needing just 26 seconds to defeat Darrion Harris, of California, 10-0. Lee followed that with another 10-0 technical superiority win over Sheldon Seymour, of Lehigh Valley Wrestling Club.
Lee forged his way into the finals with a 9-4 decision over North Carolina’s Caleb Smith, who was seeded seventh. Lee scored the first nine points and gave up four late points with a caution-and-one on a pushout that resulted in two points and a takedown in the waning seconds.
“Spencer, coming into the U.S. Open, wasn’t 100-percent healthy,” Larry Lee said. “We knew that, but he was pushing it because of the process because if you don’t come here you don’t have a chance to go to Final X and have a chance to go to Worlds, so if you medal at Worlds you get to sit in the finals.”
Lee was set to face Nick Suriano, of Sunkist Wrestling Club. Lee defeated Suriano for his first of three NCAA titles for the Hawkeyes.
“He pushed it,” Larry Lee said. “He gave it his best shot. He’s physically unable to continue at this time. He just physically cannot wrestle. Now it’s time for him to step away, to get 100-percent physically healthy so he can chase his dreams of making the Olympic team.
“Yeah, it’s going to be a little harder, because you’ll have to go the hard way. You have to qualify for the Trials, then you have to compete in the Trials, then if our representative is successful at the Worlds and then he’ll have to compete with him in the best 2 out of 3, like one of his mentors (Dan Dennis) did.”