When the NCAA decided to cancel the remaining winter championships and spring athletics due to the coronavirus pandemic, many athletes were wondering what might have been. In the winter season, the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Basketball tournaments and the Men’s Wrestling Championships were cancelled.
For the Iowa Hawkeyes, it proved to be bad timing and bad luck for their wrestling program. Ranked No. 1 in the country, the Hawkeyes had an opportunity to win their first NCAA Championship since 2010.
No. 1 wrestler at 125 pounds and two-time NCAA Champion Spencer Lee discussed the cancellation of the tournament and next year’s aspirations for Iowa with Big Ten Network.
“My initial reaction to NCAA’s being cancelled was it was just disappointing,” Lee said. “I mean everyone was really excited this year. It was a big year for us, we were favored going in, number one in the country and we wanted to go out there and show everyone what we can do and compete to the best of our ability.
“I pass the time really by just running and doing a lot of individual stuff that I can. There’s not much we can do. Carver (Hawkeye Arena) is locked out. We can’t train there. But, gotta stay positive and move on to what’s next. For wrestling fans as well as Iowa alum, keep strong. We’re going to be strong next year, we’re going to be tough next year. We’re going to be ready to go, it’s going to be a lot of fun. Keep following us. Next year, we’ll be 2020-21 NCAA champs, I promise. Go Hawks.”
While the Hawkeyes did not have the chance to capture an NCAA title this season, they won the Big Ten title at this year’s Big Ten Tournament at Rutgers University. It was their first since 2015.
Lee was 18-0 as a junior, looking for his third consecutive individual national title in Minneapolis. The NCAA Tournament was originally scheduled for US Bank Stadium, the first wrestling tournament to be held in an NFL stadium.
While Lee is likely denied of going four for four on titles, his team is geared up for a 2021 national title run. Nine of the ten starters are expected to return next season with former Missouri All-American Jaydin Eierman joining the lineup after sitting out the season due to a redshirt, plus a run for the Olympics.
Lee, along with Austin DeSanto and Eierman, form arguably the best first three in any dual meet lineup across college wrestling. DeSanto is also an All-American, earning the honor in 2019.
Iowa will also have Alex Marinelli at 165 pounds. He was the number one seed at the 2020 NCAA Championships before their cancellation and looks to be the favorite in 2021, along with Virginia Tech’s Mekhi Lewis, the 2019 National Champion, should he stay at the weight.
The Hawkeyes finished the 2019-20 season 13-0, including a 19-17 win over No. 2 Penn State.