IOWA CITY — The real question may not have been if but more when Spencer Lee would shed his redshirt.
Iowa wrestling followers received their answer Wednesday.
Lee and Iowa Coach Tom Brands confirmed that Lee will make his official debut when the seventh-ranked Hawkeyes host Michigan State for a Big Ten Conference dual Friday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Lee is expected to face Spartans true freshman Rayvon Foley (18-3).
Lee joins a group of true freshmen starters that include Randy Lewis, Jim Heffernan, Lincoln McIlravy and Jeff McGinness. He is the first under Brands to wrestle in his first season after high school. Recently, Nathan Burak and previous 125-pounder Justin Stickley competed as true freshmen, but had spent a year training before joining the Hawkeyes.
“Awesome,” Lee said about his feelings to represent the Hawkeyes. “I just want to wrestle.”
Lee has wrestled unattached in two open tournaments this season, rolling through the UNI Open and placing sixth in the Midlands Championships last weekend. He will get his chance to don the traditional black-and-gold uniform.
“This seemed like the best time,” Lee said. “We don’t want to wait. There’s no point in waiting. Might as well go out there, get some matches in and wrestle in a Hawkeye singlet.”
A less than subtle hint was dropped when Iowa leaked the program cover to Friday’s dual, featuring Lee and 157-pounder Michael Kemerer. The decision was the product of lengthy conversations, dating back to his recruitment. The coaching staff and Lee had to balance what was in the best interest of Lee and the Hawkeyes, who have experienced some lightweight struggles this season.
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“It’s a no-brainer it’s the best thing for the team,” Brands said. “Now, we’ve sorted it out to the point where both parties think it’s the best thing for the individual.”
The Hawkeyes (7-0, 3-0 Big Ten) receive an immediate boost. Lee is a three-time freestyle World champion, winning two titles as a Junior and one as a Cadet, He captured three Pennsylvania state crowns in four finals appearances, becoming the top recruit in the 2017 class.
“One reason this is big news is because it’s Spencer Lee,” Brands said. “He’s special, but on another level it’s just a decision that is made in your program. Not that it’s ho-hum, but you would like to be business as usual, but that’s not what the media or fans or even probably opponents don’t want to leave it lay like that. So, that’s why we’re talking about it. It’s why our marketing and promotions has done some work with it.
“The good thing is he represents himself very well. He represents our program very well.”
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