IOWA CITY — Spencer Lee shook off the shock a few hours after it happened and is ready to move on, just like Iowa’s 125-pound defending national champion did the last time he was pinned.
He was 9 years old at the time.
The 20-year-old Hawkeye sophomore can live with a pin once every decade or so, but that doesn’t mean he has to like what transpired on Feb. 24 at Oklahoma State when the Cowboys’ Nick Piccininni stuck Lee with five seconds remaining in the second period of a dual.
"It’s just like every other loss, it sucks," Lee said. "It’s going to hit you hard. I was more shocked than anything after the match just because that’s never really happened to me before, just the one time."
Lee, taken down just four times during his high school career, hasn’t forgotten that experience it either.
"I was 9, competing in the state finals in age group for 9- and 10-year-olds," Lee said. "It wasn’t a lot of fun."
He didn’t like it then. He doesn’t like it now.
But, he knows what he has to do as Iowa prepares for Big Ten Championships, which start at 10 a.m. Saturday at Minnesota’s Williams Arena.
"Just after the match, I was getting ready to move on. The coaching staff was telling me to keep a positive mindset and get ready for practice on Monday and Tuesday," Lee said. "I was already ready to do that."
Iowa coach Tom Brands didn’t expect that to be an issue.
"He’s in a good place," Brands said. "Spencer Lee is typical of a high-level competitor that’s getting ready to go to the next step, which is a very important step. He’s going to make it right."
The loss to Piccininni, a wrestler Lee defeated twice a year ago on his way to a national title, was the second in 18 matches this season for Lee.
He’s quick to point out he had two losses on his resume and didn’t win a Big Ten championship last season but still managed to get his hand raised after claiming his NCAA title.
"In the regular season, a loss or two isn't the biggest thing in the world as long as you learn from it," Lee said.
He understands that as the defending national champ, he has a sizable target on the back of his singlet.
"I'm sure guys are working hard to get better and get to another level, just like I am," Lee said. "Everybody wants to be a champ. Nobody wants to be second, third or fifth. That's not why you compete."
Despite the recent loss, Lee likes where he is at as the postseason begins for the Hawkeyes.
He is seeded at 125 behind Northwestern’s Sebastian Rivera, the only other wrestler to defeat Lee this season. That came by a 7-3 decision in the finals of the Midlands Championships in December.
Lee believes he has progressed since that point.
"I feel like I am a pretty diverse wrestler. I can do a lot of different things that maybe I haven’t shown yet, to be completely honest," he said. "I think that’s just wrestling with more confidence and believing in my coaching staff and how they believe in me. I’ve just got to go out there, relax and wrestle."
Brands said Lee is among the least of his worries as the Hawkeyes prepare for a meet that is essentially a qualifier for the NCAA Championships.
"I let Spencer Lee be Spencer Lee," Brands said. "I know he is working to become the best Spencer Lee he can be, not just on the mat, but in the lifestyle he leads, the way he approaches everything."
That starts with a mindset that Lee has bought into.
He says he finds himself "surrounded by positivity" as he prepares for the most important part of the Iowa season.
"I’ve been saying it all year, but my next match is always my most important match. That will never change," Lee said. "I’m not looking back. I’m looking forward to what’s next, and that’s the Big Ten Championships. I’m ready, and it’s going to be a lot of fun."