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Hawkeyes' Lee opts to have surgery, done for season
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Hawkeyes' Lee opts to have surgery, done for season

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Spencer Lee won't attempt to win a fourth national championship with the University of Iowa wrestling program this season.

Lee and the university announced Saturday that the three-time NCAA champion will undergo knee surgery and miss the remainder of the season.

According to a news release from Iowa, the decision to have season-ending surgery was made collectively by Lee, his family, the Iowa coaching staff and medical team.

Lee, who won a national title in St. Louis last March without an anterior cruciate ligament in either knee, made his season debut two weeks at the Journeymen Collegiate Wrestling Duals in Florida. He won all three matches and outscored his opponents 31-1.

"It was my goal to compete this year, for this team and with my teammates that I care so much about, but when I returned to competition it became clear I would not be able to perform as I did the prior year due to instability in both knees and extreme soreness during and after competition," Lee said in a statement on social media. "As a result, my coaches, medical staff and family believe the best course of action at this time is surgery, so that when I return I can compete to my full potential."

Lee will undergo surgery to repair his knees and will be eligible to apply for a medical hardship waiver to return for the 2022-23 season.

Lee went 5-0 and outscored opponents 59-8 to claim the 125-pound title last year, leading the Hawkeyes to the 2021 NCAA team championship.

Afterward on national television, he admitted he had torn the ACL in his left knee a couple weeks before nationals.

"After I tore my ACL in the 2019 NCAA finals, there wasn't time to have surgery and still qualify and prepare for the Olympic Trials," Lee said, "so I made the decision to pursue the path of rehabilitation.

"My knee came back remarkably fast.

"That experience showed me I could compete without surgery. It also influenced my decision to forego surgery and choose rehabilitation after injuring my other knee in the 2021 Big Ten Championship finals."

Lee, winner of 38 straight matches and 78-5 for his college career, was vying to become just the fifth four-time Division I national champion in NCAA history, joining Oklahoma State’s Pat Smith, Iowa State’s Cael Sanderson, Ohio State’s Logan Stieber and Cornell University’s Kyle Dake.

Who fills Lee's spot in the Hawkeyes' lineup?

Jesse Ybarra is 5-1 this year competing as a redshirt freshman. Drake Ayala, a true freshman and a three-time state champion at Fort Dodge, is another option.

Ayala, currently being redshirted, upset third-seeded Noah Surtin of Missouri 9-3 on Saturday night in the quarterfinals of the Southern Scuffle. His only loss this season is an 8-4 decision to Minnesota All-American Patrick McKee.


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Sports Editor

Sports editor, with my emphasis on covering the Mississippi Athletic Conference and Iowa area high schools. I've been in sports journalism for 21 years, the last nine at the Q-C Times.

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The Hawkeyes opened the Big Ten Conference season by winning two duals over the weekend but, Iowa dropped from first to second in the weekly National Wrestling Coaches Association NCAA Division I team poll released Tuesday.

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