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IOWA CITY — Iowa Coach Tom Brands doesn’t have a specific timetable for Spencer Lee’s return.
The three-time NCAA champion and two-time Hodge Trophy winner captured the 125-pound national crown last season, despite a postseason injury that left him without anterior cruciate ligaments in either knee.
“Spencer Lee is Spencer Lee and he has a grand total of zero ACLs,” Brands said during the wrestling program’s weekly news conference Tuesday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. “We are patient. We are very patient.”
Brands said that Lee also remains patient for his return. Until then, redshirt freshman Jesse Ybarra will man the spot. Ybarra won the Luther Open and collected a forfeit in Iowa’s 32-12 home victory over Princeton last week. Ybarra is expected to face sophomore Brandon Kaylor Saturday when the top-ranked Hawkeyes host Oregon State at 2 p.m.
“He’s having fun,” Brands said. “He’s driven. He still has the same ingredients that make him great. I don’t think it’s risky. Medical team says it’s not risky. It’s just a matter of that comfort being at a high level where we make that call.”
College wrestling teams consist of 10 individuals with success based on their collective efforts. Lee is an important and vital element to the Hawkeyes’ success, but taking the mat has to be the right move for all involved.
“The funny thing about wrestling is you’re not talking about team dynamics like any other sport,” Brands said. “There’s just no other sport that has team dynamics like you define wrestling team dynamics, meaning you have a guy with no ACLs on the basketball court he’s not going to do you much good. In the football field, he’s not going to do you much good, maybe.
“In wrestling, if you can cope with that stuff that doesn’t upset the team dynamic for other weight classes. It comes down to Spencer Lee and what he’s able to do. So, this is a medical call. This is a coaching call. This is a Spencer Lee call, and Spencer Lee’s family.”
Brands said that sellout crowds that may be there to watch him don’t impact decisions. He has to do what is best for the individual, consulting everyone with a stake in the move. Brands noted that Lee is day-to-day and he doesn’t have a date when he will be back to competition.
“He’s as ready as our fans are (for him) to get on the mat,” Brands said. “That is saying something about his readiness.”
Lighter is better for Nelson Brands
After a full season as the 184-pound starter, Nelson Brands wrestled at 174 against Princeton. He posted a 16-8 major decision over Michael Squires, tallying six takedowns. The lower weight class is a better fit.
“It is extremely easy to make 174 and I don’t even know how to say it because I didn’t have to make it 184, you know,” Nelson said. “I never weighed 184.
“It’s definitely different having to shave off a few pounds. It’s not even near cutting weight like in high school, but 174 is probably more of a natural weight for me, for sure.”
Nelson has been a flexible asset for the Hawkeyes. He has wrestled 165 and 184. The junior is listed at 184 on the roster, but provides depth at the lower class with second-ranked Michael Kemerer, who is the frontrunner to wrestle Saturday against the Beavers.
“I’m still weighing the same,” Nelson said. “It’s just wrestling. You have to keep wrestling the same way, whether you weigh 190 or 160 pounds.”
Nelson admitted wrestling heavier opponents took its toll on him last season. He said he’d rather go 174, but he will do whatever the Hawkeyes need him to do.
“They know what is best for me,” Nelson said of the coaching staff. “I can talk to Tom and Terry (Brands) extremely easy that I’m related to them. It’s easy to get that feedback from them.”
Tom Brands said that wrestling up from a natural weight is a disadvantage, but Nelson’s power has allowed him to negate them. He also said that Nelson has dealt with his various roles admirably.
“He has handled everything that we have thrown at him, if you want to call it that, and he is not taking a backseat to anybody or any competition, whether it’s in our wrestling room or on the mat against opposing teams,” Tom said. “He’s been that way ever since I’ve known him and I’ve known him ever since he came home from the hospital as a little infant.”
Iowa freshmen Cullan Schriever and Wyatt Henson won titles at the Lindenwood Open on Saturday.
Schriever, a former Mason City prep and redshirt freshman, went 3-0 in the gold division, posting a technical fall and pin. Henson recorded two pins and a major decision to win at 141 in the black division. Henson also won the freshman division 141 bracket at the Luther Open.