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University of Iowa and Spencer Lee confirmed Saturday that the three-time NCAA champion will undergo knee surgery and miss the remainder of the college wrestling season.
Reports began to circulate online earlier in the day, including a post from the wrestling website, InterMat.
According to the news release from Iowa, the decision to have season-ending surgery was made collectively by Lee, his family, and the Iowa coaching staff and medical team.
Lee also addressed the situation on Twitter.
Lee wrestled recently at the Journeyman Collegiate Duals on Dec. 20-21 in Niceville, Fla. He went 3-0, outscoring his opponents, 31-1, and sharing Big Ten Wrestler of the Week honors with Penn State’s Aaron Brooks.
Lee suffered a torn knee ligament his senior year in high school and again in the 2019 NCAA finals. He also tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his other knee during last year’s Big Ten Championships. After he became Iowa’s first three-time national champion since 1998, Lee mentioned he was wrestling with no ACLs.
During the Hawkeyes’ annual media day in October, Lee was asked how he was feeling and when he might take the mat.
“I’m doing awesome,” Lee said. “Yeah, you have to get healthy.”
Top-ranked Lee didn’t wrestle in Iowa’s first three duals with freshman Jesse Ybarra in the 125-pound spot. He made his debut against Central Michigan, posting a 17-0 technical fall over Brock Bergelin. Lee added an 8-0 major decision over Lehigh’s No. 11 Jaret Lane and a 6-1 decision over North Carolina State’s No. 5 Jakob Camacho.
Lee has won 38 straight matches, dominating his way to a 463-42 match-point advantage during that stretch. He is 78-5 in his college career and the seventh Hawkeye to win three NCAA titles. Lee was attempting to become just the fifth four-time D-I national champion in NCAA history, joining Oklahoma State’s Pat Smith, Iowa State’s Cael Sanderson, Ohio State’s Logan Stieber and Cornell University’s Kyle Dake.
Lee is the first Hawkeye with multiple Hodge Trophy honors and became the fifth wrestler ever to win the AAU James A. Sullivan Award for the nation’s top amateur athlete in 2020.
The immediate questions are whether Lee will be able to reclaim another year of eligibility and who will be the permanent 125-pounder going forward for Iowa.
Lee could be eligible for a medical hardship waiver, which could allow him to return next season for a shot at No. 4.
Ybarra, a redshirt freshman, is 5-1 this season, losing to Iowa State’s Kysen Terukina in the Cy-Hawk Series. He could maintain the spot.
Freshman Drake Ayala has impressed so far this season, reaching the semifinals of the Southern Scuffle on Saturday with a 9-3 decision over Missouri’s 12th-ranked and third-seeded Noah Surtin.
Ayala entered the weekend with a 5-1 record, posting two pins, two major decisions and a technical fall. Ayala won Iowa State’s Harold Nichols Open and was second at the UNI Open, dropping an 8-4 decision to Minnesota All-American Patrick McKee, who was third at the 2021 NCAA tournament.
Ayala could shed his redshirt and step into the lineup, returning to redshirt next season, if Lee returns.