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Tom Brands believes Spencer Lee’s ‘best wrestling is in front of him’ as he competes with Hawkeye Wrestling Club
‘Coach Dan Gable lost his last college wrestling match, and it did not define his legacy,’ Brands reminded Cedar Rapids fans
CEDAR RAPIDS — As Tom Brands stood on a small stage in the Cedar Rapids Hilton Garden Inn convention ballroom, almost two months had passed since Iowa wrestler Spencer Lee’s stunning upset in the NCAA Championships.
Still, the loss — the one that halted Lee’s attempt at a fourth NCAA title — is “hard to talk about,” and not just for Brands, the Iowa men’s wrestling coach.
“It’s hard to talk about for anybody,” Brands said at a Linn County I-Club event Thursday. “A lot of people avoid it, but I can tell you that he is not avoiding it. He hits it head on. He owns it.”
Brands is not one to “downplay what he’s going through,” but at the same time, the 17-year Iowa head coach is optimistic about Lee’s legacy as he begins another wrestling chapter in his career.
“His best wrestling is in front of him,” Brands said.
Brands pointed to longtime Iowa coach Dan Gable, who went 117-1 at Iowa State. The one loss was in his final match, at the NCAA Championships.
“Coach Dan Gable lost his last college wrestling match, and it did not define his legacy,” Brands said.
Gable won a world championship in 1971 and an Olympic gold medal in 1972 before beginning his coaching career.
“And then he went into coaching and became arguably the greatest coach in any sport,” Brands said. “That’s all he did after losing his last college match.”
Gable led the Hawkeyes to 15 NCAA team titles as the head coach from 1976-97, including nine consecutive titles in the 1970s and 1980s.
Lee arrived at Iowa in 2017 as a two-time junior world champion.
Now competing with the Hawkeye Wrestling Club, Lee withdrew from the U.S. Open semifinals last month because he was “physically unable to continue,” his father told Flowrestling.com.
Before the injury, Lee eased his way to the semifinals with 10-0, 10-0 and 9-4 wins in early rounds.
“If you’re concerned about Spencer Lee, send him a note,” Brands said. “But if you’re concerned about his future and if he’s going to make it, he’ll make it.”