The Register's Andy Hamilton breaks down what the commitments of Spencer Lee and Gavin Teasdale means for Iowa.
Iowa scored one of the biggest recruiting coups in the rich history of its wrestling program Wednesday afternoon when the Hawkeyes plucked two of the nation’s top prospects out of Pennsylvania.
Two-time World champion Spencer Lee and undefeated two-time Pennsylvania state champion Gavin Teasdale simultaneously announced their plans to wrestle at Iowa.
“It’s going to be awesome walking out to 15,000 people in Carver-Hawkeye Arena,” Teasdale said. “We’re psyched to come.”
Lee is one of most coveted recruits the sport has seen in decades. The consensus pound-for-pound No. 1 wrestler nationally in the 2017 class captured freestyle world titles the past two summers at the Cadet and Junior levels and hasn’t lost a match in three high school seasons for Pennsylvania power Franklin Regional High School.
“He’s incredible,” said Jody Strittmatter, a two-time All-American at Iowa, who trains Lee and Teasdale at his Young Guns Wrestling Club. “He has it all. He’s great on the mat. He’s great on his feet. He’s good offensively, good defensively. Off the mat, he’s an incredible kid. Smart, intelligent, polite. He’s the total package.”
College coaches from 28 programs flooded Lee’s phone with calls last September on the first day they were permitted by NCAA rules to contact prospects in the 2017 class. The projected college 125-pounder ultimately picked Iowa over Penn State.
“You’ve got Terry and Tom Brands there and they’re lightweight guys and it’s not just that,” said Lee, who scored three first-period pins and a 15-0 second-period technical fall in four state tournament bouts this year. “It’s their attitude, the way they coach, their attention to detail. They’re funny guys. They have a great sense of humor, believe it or not. Most people don’t believe that. They’re awesome to be around.”
Lee is the first consensus No. 1 overall recruit to commit to Iowa since Mark Perry in 2003 and the most decorated wrestler to pledge to the Hawkeyes during the Tom Brands era.
Teasdale is near the top of that list now, as well. The sophomore from Jefferson-Morgan High School is rated by Flowrestling and InterMat as the No. 3 overall prospect in the 2018 class.
“I think it’s going to be crazy with a 1-2 punch in the lineup and having the person I train with every day at Young Guns on the same college team with me is a great opportunity,” Teasdale said. “We could be NCAA champions together.”
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Teasdale breezed through his bracket this year at the Pennsylvania state meet with four technical falls, setting a tournament record by scoring 96 points.
“Gavin gets better every year,” Strittmatter said. “He started late. He didn’t start until he was 10 years old, but he keeps progressing and getting better and better, and he loves the sport. He wrestles every single day of the year and you see progress every time he steps on the mat.”
Teasdale also made unofficial visits to Oklahoma State, Penn State, North Carolina and Campbell. Like Lee, he made trips to Iowa City for last November’s Grapple on the Gridiron and the Olympic Trials earlier this month.
“I like the coaches out there and how they train their wrestlers,” he said. “Best coaches in the country, in my opinion.”
Lee is the fourth top-50 overall recruit to commit to Iowa’s 2017 class. The Hawkeyes have also picked up pledges from three-time California state champion Justin Mejia (ranked second behind Lee nationally at 120 pounds), Illinois state champion Jason Renteria and California state medalist Luke Troy.
Teasdale is Iowa’s first recruit for 2018.