It’s been 14 days since Iowa wrestlers last competed, more than enough time for Spencer Lee to hit the reset button.
The Hawkeyes’ defending national champion will look to move beyond on his 7-3 loss to Northwestern’s Sebastian Rivera in the 125-pound finals at the Midlands Championships when No. 4 Iowa wrestles at noon today at eighth-ranked Minnesota.
The loss was the first in 10 matches this season for the now second-rated Lee, who is expected to face the Golden Gophers’ sixth-ranked Sean Russell as part of a dual that will include at least one rated wrestler on the mat in each weight class.
"I can be super hard on myself when I lose, and the coaches do a great job of getting me to focus on the next big thing," Lee said. "For me, the next big thing was getting back to practice, getting back to work. And now, we’ve got a big match. Minnesota is going to be a good match. We’ve got to be ready."
Iowa' wrestlers at its first three weights — Lee at 125, Austin DeSanto at 133 and Max Murin at 141 — are off to a combined 28-4 start to the season.
Each is expected to face an opponent ranked in the top seven nationally in today’s dual against a Minnesota team that is off to an 8-1 start and features the nation’s second-ranked 285-pounder in freshman Gable Steveson, who is off to a 19-0 start on the season.
Iowa’s top-ranked Sam Stoll is not listed among probable starters for the Hawkeyes today, with redshirt freshman Aaron Costello expected to go at 285 for Iowa.
Coach Tom Brands lists Stoll’s availability as "day to day" as he deals with continued knee issues that will likely lead Hawkeye coaches to pick a handful of matches for him to compete in during the second half of the season prior to the Big Ten Championships.
"He’s chomping at the bit, and he wants to go, but we have to make sure it’s the right time and situation," Brands said.
Roster management has been a part of Brands’ job description this season as Iowa (6-0, 1-0 Big Ten) deals with several injuries and a group that in general is younger than many recent Hawkeye teams.
That’s one reason Brands doesn’t mind the two-week gap in the schedule following the Midlands.
"It’s been very beneficial for this team with so many first-time starters," Brands said. "… We’ve got some tough matches in front of us, and guys need to embrace the idea that it isn’t always going to be easy."
Lee understands that.
"I’m anxious to get back out there again after that last match. Hopefully, it’s something I can learn from," he said. "Hopefully, it helps get me ready for February and March."