Iowa wrestling takeaways: Spencer Lee’s 'funny' history with Michigan's Drew Mattin, Kaleb Young and the Arctic Plunge

Cody Goodwin
Hawk Central

IOWA CITY, Ia. — Spencer Lee will get a chance to wrestle another true freshman phenom this Saturday in Michigan’s Drew Mattin. As it turns out, they actually have somewhat of a history.

“He’s from Delta, Ohio, and we’ve grown up together,” Lee said Wednesday. “Funny story, I was at Schoolboy Nationals, and I got ridiculous cauliflower ear. I was 12. I went to the trainers, and they just looked at it and said, ‘I can’t help you,’ then took a picture and walked away.

Iowa's Spencer Lee pins Michigan State's Rayvon Foley as they wrestle at 125 pounds at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Friday, Jan. 5, 2018.

“(Mattin’s) dad is a doctor. I remember him putting me on a lunch table, and my dad went and got a needle and a few other things. He drained my ear and wrapped it. His dad was the first guy to drain my ear. It’s kind of funny, now that we’re both wrestling in the Big Ten.”

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And both have climbed the ranks at an extremely deep weight class. Lee, of course, is 3-0 since his redshirt was pulled, his latest victory a 3-2 decision over Ohio State’s Nathan Tomasello, then the No. 1-ranked wrestler at 125 pounds.

Mattin has also turned in a stellar freshman campaign. He enters Saturday night’s dual at Carver-Hawkeye Arena at 16-6 overall after his 4-2 win over Minnesota’s Ethan Lizak, a returning NCAA finalist. He’s now ranked 13th in Trackwrestling’s latest Division I poll; Lee is No. 3.

Both Lee and Mattin are showing that true freshmen are entering college perhaps more prepared than ever to wrestling at the highest level. Lee obviously has his credentials, but so, too, does Mattin, who won the 2017 Junior Freestyle national title just last summer (where he actually beat Underwood’s Alex Thomsen, 12-11, in the semifinals).

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“I think there’s a difference now with club teams having awesome coaches that may not have been there back in the day,” Lee said when asked about the trend. “The difference between high school and college was such a big jump that most guys redshirted. 

“I don’t know how many true freshman national champs there’s been, but I bet you there’s a lot more redshirt freshman national champs because of that one year difference. Now with these big-time clubs, the gaps are closing.”

Iowa, ranked third in Trackwrestling’s latest poll, hosts No. 7 Michigan on Saturday at 5 p.m.

Young getting a chance at 174?

Kaleb Young got the nod on Sunday to wrestle Ohio State’s Bo Jordan. Young lost 10-5, but showed plenty of fight that ultimately led to a takedown in the third period to help stave off a potential major decision.

On Tuesday, Brands discussed why Young, a redshirt freshman, was given the opportunity over Joey Gunther, the team's regular 174-pounder.

Iowa's Kaleb Young wrestles Buffalo's Derek Holcomb at 165 pounds at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Friday, Nov. 17, 2017. Young won by major decision, 12-4.

“I know that Joey Gunther has a lot of scoring potential,” Brands said, “and I know that we haven’t seen it, but I know it’s there. It was for two reasons. We’ll see what Kaleb Young can do. We’ll rest Joe Gunther (against Ohio State) and we’ll see where it goes.”

With Alex Marinelli firmly entrenched as the starting 165-pounder, Young’s best path into the starting lineup might very well be at 174 pounds. That’s where he competed in the wrestle-offs back in November, losing to Gunther by a 4-2 decision in overtime.

Brands added that Young is valuable because he is currently backing up both 165 and 174. He’s listed at 174 on this week’s probable lineup. 

“What did Kaleb Young show me?” Brands said. “He showed me he can take a guy down, but let’s go wrestle seven minutes hard and get those first takedowns and build your leads in the first period. Make it very difficult for that guy to survive. Kaleb Young has that characteristic in him.

“He’s a heartbeat away from the presidency at two weights. He looks good in the practice room … we have to get it tuned in to where it’s happening in those matches.”

Stoll will wrestle, Brands says

Sam Stoll didn’t wrestle against Ohio State’s Kyle Snyder on Sunday, sparking many internet opinions and beyond. This is the second time Brands has held his junior heavyweight out from wrestling this season — Stoll didn’t wrestle Maryland’s Yousif Hemida back in December.

On Saturday, Michigan brings along Adam Coon, a two-time All-American at heavyweight who’s currently ranked second by Track. Stoll is ranked third. Brands was asked if Stoll would wrestle against Coon.

“Stoll will wrestle,” Brands said. “Absolutely.”

The Hawkeye Wrestling Club Arctic Plunge

The Hawkeye Wrestling Club is hosting its annual Arctic Plunge on Saturday, immediately following the Michigan dual. It’ll be hosted at Brown Deer Golf Club (1900 Country Club Drive, Coralville, IA 52241).

The Arctic Plunge is a fundraiser for the HWC, the postgraduate wrestling club linked to the Iowa program, where wrestlers and coaches and others close to the club jump into freezing cold water in exchange for monetary donations.

Among those taking the plunge this year are former Iowa wrestlers Mark Ironside, Matt McDonough, Thomas Gilman, current Iowa coaches Ryan Morningstar and Terry Brands, and, of course, Tom Brands.

Supporters of the Hawkeye Wrestling Club jump into the water during the Hawkeye Wrestling Club's Polar Plunge at the Brown Deer Country Club in Coralville on Saturday, Jan. 17, 2015.

Here’s what the head coach said on Tuesday about the Plunge:

“I am jumping in,” Brands said. “I think it’s great for the endorphins. Because you go from comfort to discomfort, and there’s good endorphins that come into your body. Ask a medical professional to see if I’m right or not.

“This is one of our most popular events because it’s a contest with fundraising. And it’s extremely uncomfortable. So it’s awesome. We love the polar plunge, and we love the direction that our Hawkeye Wrestling Club is going with fundraising.”

Brands then continued on about jumping into cold water, which led to a fun little talk about saunas. 

“We did it when we didn’t have to do it,” he said. “It was part of training. I’ve been in the Yenisei River in Russia when it’s 25 below zero. There’s a hole cut in the ice. You go from the sauna and you go dip and then you go back to the sauna room.

“My brother has an outdoor sauna. When it snowed a little bit — we need more snow for it to be more enjoyable in the winter — but you go from the hot to the cold. We’ve been doing that a lot. Ask (former Iowa wrestling coach Dan Gable) the benefits.”

Cody Goodwin covers wrestling and high school sports the Des Moines Register. Follow him on Twitter at @codygoodwin.