Tom Brands has always believed there is a time for talk and a time for action.
After talking things over, the Iowa wrestling coach believes Spencer Lee is ready for action.
The 125-pound Pennsylvania native, a three-time world champion at the junior and cadet levels, will make his debut for the Hawkeyes in a 7 p.m. dual today at Carver-Hawkeye Arena against Michigan State.
Lee will be the first true freshman to wrestle for Iowa in his first season after high school during Brands’ 12 seasons as the Hawkeyes’ head coach.
Nathan Burak and Justin Stickley each competed as true freshmen for Iowa in recent years, but both spent one year training after high school before beginning their collegiate careers.
"This seems like the best time. We don’t want to wait. There’s no point in waiting," Lee said. "Might as well go out there, get some matches in and wrestle in a Hawkeye singlet."
Lee has wanted to wrestle this season for Iowa since the preseason, but Brands took a cautious approach as the nation’s consensus number one recruit in the Class of 2017 worked his way back from surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
"We have to do what is in the best interest of Spencer Lee first and foremost," Brands said. "From day one, that’s where the conversation begins."
Brands hinted at the Hawkeyes’ media day in November that Lee likely would see action this season with continued progress with his rehabilitation from the ACL injury.
Lee, who had allowed only three takedowns over four years until suffering his only loss at the prep level in the Pennsylvania state finals last February, prepared for his collegiate debut by competing unattached at the UNI Open and the Midlands Championships over the past month.
Lee pinned his way to three wins at the UNI meet and recorded a pin and two technical falls before losing to Oregon State’s Ronnie Bresser last week at the Midlands in the semifinals.
With each step, Brands, Lee and Lee’s family communicated about where things stood and weighed options.
Ultimately, they agreed that this is go time for Lee and that he is ready to compete at a level that will give him a chance to be a factor at the NCAA Championships in March.
"It’s a no-brainer that this is the best thing for the team, but now we have sorted it out to the point where all parties think it’s the best thing for the individual," Brands said.
"One reason this is big news is because it’s Spencer Lee, and he’s special. On another level, it’s just a decision that is made in your program. … One of our goals is to put our best team on the mat, and he helps us do that."
Lee’s first test in an Iowa uniform will come against the Spartans’ Rayvon Foley, a true freshman with an 18-3 record.
"I’m ready to compete. I’m always ready to compete," Lee said. "To get a chance to do that in a Hawkeye singlet, it’s going to be awesome. That’s what I’m working toward every day, getting ready to take that next step."