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Why Iowa's Spencer Lee ditched the knee brace for NCAA Championships

Chad Leistikow
Hawk Central

CLEVELAND, Ohio — A few weeks ago at the Big Ten Championships, Iowa freshman Spencer Lee lost a match for the first time since pulling his redshirt.

While not blaming a bulky leg brace for a 2-1 loss to Ohio State’s Nathan Tomasello, Lee knew then he needed to junk the extra protection for his surgically repaired right knee.

Iowa's Spencer Lee pins Oklahoma State's Nicholas Piccininni in 3:58 at the NCAA Wrestling Championships at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio on Friday, March 16, 2018.

“I got into a position with Tomasello, and I couldn’t get my knee out,” Lee said. “And I told the coaches, ‘You will have to staple it to my knee if you want me to wear it. Because I’m not wearing it.’

“They said, ‘Good idea. Good choice.’”

Indeed it has been. The knee mostly free (only a white pad is around it now), third-seeded Lee has powered into the NCAA semifinals. His second-period pin of Oklahoma State’s Nick Piccininni on Friday morning continued his dominant weekend at Quicken Loans Arena.

He won twice by 18-0 technical fall Thursday and was leading 12-2 (with pending back points) when he pinned Piccininni, officially in 3:58.

Lee and 165-pounder Alex Marinelli, also a freshman, are Iowa's only semifinalists.

And now, a rematch with second-seeded Tomasello. The pair has split two bouts this year. Lee hasn’t recorded a takedown of the 2015 national champ in either meeting.

No. 1 Darian Cruz of Lehigh and No. 4 Nick Suriano of Rutgers will square off in the other semi.

“Everyone knows it’s going to be a good match,” Lee said. “We both have a lot of respect for each other. In our minds, the winner of that match is going to be the guy to beat in the finals.”