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Iowa wrestlers rally around Spencer Lee after stunning loss: NCAA wrestling notebook
‘He’s got to know he’s loved. Not by teammates but by friends’
TULSA, Okla. — Iowa was still dealing with the effects of Friday’s stunner when Purdue’s Matt Ramos upset three-time NCAA champion Spencer Lee.
The setback turned out to be the two-time Hodge Trophy winner’s final college match.
Lee medically forfeited his final two bouts to place sixth at 125 pounds in the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships on Saturday at BOK Center. Iowa distributed a statement in the morning before consolation semifinals.
“It has been a long road of a recovery for Spencer Lee,” the statement attributed to the wrestling program said. “He will medically forfeit out of the 2023 NCAA Wrestling Championships today in Tulsa.”
Lee did make an appearance at the arena Saturday. He joined coaches and teammates and sat on the event level to watch and support heavyweight Tony Cassioppi in his third-place bout. Iowa finalist Real Woods was also in attendance, despite the championship bout later that evening.
“Real was in the arena for these matches. That shows something,” Brands said. “Spencer Lee was in the arena for these matches. That shows something.”
Lee has battled multiple knee injuries since his senior year in high school, competing an entire season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament and winning his third national title after tearing the other. He missed last season to have ACLs repaired in each knee at the start of January 2022.
The loss to Ramos reverberated throughout the wrestling world. An upset in Iowa wrestling lore that ranks up there with Dan Gable’s NCAA finals loss to Washington’s Larry Owings in 1970 and Lincoln McIlravy’s loss to Illinois’ Steve Marianetti in the NCAA final in 1995.
“Now, I’m going to go talk to him,” Iowa 174-pounder Nelson Brands said after winning his fifth-place match. “Go keep track of my buddy. He’s my teammate for life and he was one hell of a black-and-gold wrestler.”
⧉ Related article: Iowa’s Spencer Lee upset in NCAA wrestling semifinals, Real Woods advances
Lee concluded his Iowa career with 98 career victories. He is one of Iowa’s seven three-time NCAA champions. He is also the third Hawkeye to win the Hodge Trophy, joining greats Mark Ironside and Brent Metcalf. Lee also earned the prestigious AAU James E. Sullivan Award, given to the nation’s top amateur athlete.
Regardless of the resume, the Hawkeyes were ready to rally around the five-time All-American.
“Spencer is dealing with his own stuff,” Iowa’s 197-pounder Jacob Warner said. “He needs to know that we love him. I don’t care if he wins four national titles for myself. I only cared because he cared, and I want what is best for him and what he wants. Whatever it is he needs moving forward is what I can give him.
“He’s got to know he’s loved. Not by teammates but by friends.”
ISU’s Marcus Coleman closes on awards stand
Iowa State senior Marcus Coleman capped his college career with his second straight All-America finish Saturday at BOK Center. The senior 184-pounder placed fifth, improving last year’s performance by two spots.
“I had a great career,” said Coleman, a five-time NCAA qualifier. “I just kept getting better and better. I don’t regret anything. I love my career and what I did for my school.”
Coleman’s steady rise included his breakout a year ago. He improved to one of the top competitors all season, earning the No. 5 seed here and posting a win over Penn State finalist and two-time NCAA champion Aaron Brooks.
After the 2021 national tournament, Coleman told himself he wasn’t leaving the national tournament empty-handed again. He didn’t.
“I worked endlessly day in and day out in the summer,” Coleman said. “I worked my butt off. I think it finally started to click. Got to my right weight class and started building confidence.”
Coleman (24-5) was a three-time state champion for Ames High School and was a Junior Nationals champion in freestyle as the No. 78 recruit in the Class of 2017. His career has come full circle, growing up a Cyclones fan in his hometown to receiving cheers from youth that aspire to be in his place.
“I’m extremely grateful and blessed I’ve had this career and got to wrestle on the biggest stage,” Coleman said. “I grew up watching the Cyclones. I grew up asking for autographs and now I’m the guy giving the autographs, so it’s pretty special.”
Michael Blockhus places for Minnesota
The long and winding road for Michael Blockhus has finally led to the NCAA podium. Minnesota’s No. 10 seed placed eighth at 149 pounds with a 21-8 record.
Blockhus, formerly Michael Millage, was a three-time Iowa state champion, claiming two titles for New Hampton and one for Crestwood. He began his college career at Northern Iowa, earning his first trip to the national tournament. Blockhus is now a four-time qualifier with one year of eligibility left.