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Iowa wrestling learned Spencer Lee will have to undergo surgery and miss the rest of the season. The Hawkeyes also saw the potential from Lee’s possible replacement. He may not be the only Hawkeye to shed a redshirt this season. A couple Iowans also made noise at the Southern Scuffle for South Dakota State. Full steam ahead in 2022 with the Wrestling Weekend That Was.
Surgery the right move for Spencer Lee
Iowa and Spencer Lee announced Saturday that the three-time NCAA champion and two-time Hodge Trophy winner will undergo surgery on both knees to repair anterior cruciate ligament tears suffered in previous seasons.
The news was a blow to the Hawkeyes, who are looking for back-to-back NCAA team titles. The hope was for Lee to rehab and manage both ACL injuries for a successful run to a fourth national championship. Unfortunately, his knee didn’t respond in the way he had hoped to the latest injury. After consulting with his family, Iowa Coach Tom Brands and his staff and UI medical personnel, the decision was made to surgically repair both knees.
The top-ranked 125-pounder will be able to have both knees fixed with the proper time to mend and rehab. He should qualify for a medical hardship waiver, giving him the chance at another national title. It will also allow him to fully heal for his international career, including the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.
This is the age of hyperbole. Everyone wants to proclaim the most recent achievement and performance as the greatest of all time. Quite frankly, it’s overused.
Lee is the exception. He truly is one of the most extraordinary competitors, regardless of sport, era or feats. The term fits.
Think of how remarkable you must be to walk, train and wrestle over the last 10 months without an ACL and fans still had the expectation to see you make another run at gold.
The only normal aspect is he will have the procedure. The craziness is he beat the nation’s best college wrestlers without ACLs and waited to even mention it until after he finished, accompanying the news with the famous “excuses are for wusses” statement.
Add in the fact that Lee recently competed at the Journeyman Collegiate Duals in Niceville, Fla., on Dec. 20-21. He went 3-0 with a technical fall, major decision and decision. Lee beat two opponents ranked in the top 11 nationally. Lee did it all while dealing with the pain and on the verge of surgery.
Seriously, who does this? Who wants to do it?
The only answer is Spencer Lee. An exceptionally selfless teammate, looking to help his teammates and the program to an NCAA championship. Just like he did when he passed on an Olympic redshirt season in 2020 to lead Iowa to a Big Ten title before the pandemic wiped out the national tournament.
Drake Ayala places 3rd at Southern Scuffle
Who might replace Lee? Well, the popular answer is freshman Drake Ayala. He added fuel to the fire when he finished third at the Southern Scuffle. Ayala was impressive, beating 12th-ranked Noah Surtin twice and nearly avenging an earlier loss to Minnesota All-American Patrick McKee, who was third at the 2021 NCAA tournament.
Ayala (10-2) beat Oklahoma State’s sixth-seeded Reece Witcraft, 17-6, and then beat No. 3 Surtin, 9-3. In the semifinals, he dropped a 6-5 decision to McKee, who won their first meeting, 8-4, in the UNI Open finals.
Ayala rebounded for third, winning a thriller against Surtin in the placing round. Ayala trailed 7-0 after the second period. He stormed back with three takedowns, adding a two-point nearfall after the third.
Ayala took Surtin down to his back with 12 seconds remaining, tying it with the takedown and holding Surtin on his back for four nearfall to win it.
Ayala was joined by a few other Hawkeyes on the awards stand Sunday. Former Western Dubuque heavyweight Aaron Costello and Cullan Schriever (133) were third. Wyatt Henson was fifth at 141.
Ayala seems like the logical choice to replace Lee in the lineup and pull his redshirt. Jesse Ybarra manned the spot for the first three duals, posting a 5-1 mark.
“You guys know as much as me,” Ayala told Flowrestling’s Andy Hamilton at the Southern Scuffle. “If they choose for me to step out there I’m going to be ready, and if not I’m going to trust my coaches.”
The last time Iowa pulled the redshirt off a 125-pound freshman worked pretty well. That was Lee.
South Dakota State Iowans medal
South Dakota State duo Cade DeVos and Tanner Sloan earned medals at the Southern Scuffle on Sunday at Chattanooga, Tenn. DeVos, a former Southeast Polk prep, became the Jackrabbits’ first Scuffle champion, going 5-0 and defeating Missouri’s Peyton Mocco, 3-2, in the 174 final.
Sloan, a two-time state champion from Alburnett, went 4-2 and placed fourth. The two-time NCAA qualifier and 2020 National Wrestling Coaches Association All-American outscored his first three opponents, 26-3, to reach the 197-pound semifinal.
Coe ranked No. 1
In the latest National Wrestling Coaches Association rankings, Coe has ascended to the top spot in the NCAA Division III dual poll on Dec. 29. Coe is ranked first with a 4-0 dual record. The Kohawks are joined by American Rivers Conference rivals No. 2 Loras (6-0) and No. 5 Wartburg (7-1).
Coe has conference wins over No. 12 Central and Buena Vista. The Kohawks also beat No. 3 Wisconsin-La Crosse and fourth-ranked North Central (Ill.) in consecutive duals Dec. 4.
Coe is expected to return to action Thursday for the NWCA Multi-Divisional Duals in Louisville, Kent.
In the tournament rankings, Coe is 10th overall. Wartburg holds the top spot with Loras fifth.