The Iowa wrestling team takes third overall for the NCAA Division 1 Wrestling Championships in Cleveland, Ohio on Saturday, March 17, 2018. (Ben Allan Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Iowa takes third, Lee takes first at NCAA Championships


Iowa’s trip to Cleveland for the NCAA Championships ended with a third-place finish and a national champion.

By Pete Ruden

CLEVELAND — After Iowa’s solid performance at the NCAA Championships, the Hawkeyes are bringing a bronze trophy back to Carver-Hawkeye.

Led by Spencer Lee’s national title, Iowa bounced back in an impressive way in the three days ending on March 17 after leaving the Big Ten Championships with an underwhelming fourth-place finish.

Lee was on a mission for the Hawkeyes, pinning and tech-falling his way to the finals, where he beat Nick Suriano of Rutgers, 5-1, to pick up a gold medal in his true freshman season.

His victory came after a tremendous tournament in which he recorded two tech falls and two pins, including one over former national champion Nathan Tomasello of Ohio State.

“It’s a personal thing that he expects out of himself,” Iowa associate head coach Terry Brands said. “But not taken for granted.

“He’s workmanlike in the way that he prepares and the way that he comes to workout. It’s a relaxed sensation. It’s a young-gun-mentality kind of thing.”

Lee’s triumph complemented the performances of All-Americans Brandon Sorensen, Michael Kemerer, Alex Marinelli, and Sam Stoll in the consolation bracket.

Sorensen and Stoll placed fifth, and Kemerer finished fourth because of a medical forfeit in the third-place match. Marinelli closed out his competition in sixth after reaching the semifinals in the winner’s bracket.

For Sorensen, it was his last match in Iowa’s black singlet. The four-time All-American finished his career with finishes of fourth, second, third, and fifth at the NCAAs.

Serving as a rock for the Hawkeyes at 149 pounds, Sorensen’s presence and personality will be missed in the Iowa lineup.

“Brandon Sorensen, invaluable to our program,” Iowa head coach Tom Brands said. “Great representation of what we’re about. I’ve talked about it a lot this year because he’s a senior — zero drama, zero maintenance the entire time. He was raised right, handles himself right … Awesome, awesome partner in our program.”

Despite the loss of Sorensen, Iowa wants to return to the NCAA Championships next year with a stacked lineup.

The Hawkeyes return the likes of Lee, Kemerer, Marinelli, and Stoll, and have more potential with Jacob Warner, Max Murin, and Edinboro transfer Pat Lugo possibly joining the starting squad.

Winning the bronze was a positive step for Iowa and an improvement from its fourth-place finish last season, and the Hawkeyes hope to keep that momentum going into next year.

“We’re moving in the right direction,” Sorensen said. “We’ve got great recruits coming in. Obviously, you see some of these freshmen in the finals, that’s what you want … Here’s the thing: You get a class like that, they push the older guys, too.”

No matter what happens in the future, it is evident Iowa has a young gun who is ready to lead right now: Lee.

And Lee has a family of teammates that he gave credit to following his championship victory. They will try to help the Hawkeyes move further up in the NCAA Championships results next season.

“[The coaches] tell us we’re family. Iowa is our home. And that’s what I want everyone to know about the University of Iowa,” Lee said. “We’re not these robots or whatever that stigma was a long time ago. We’re a family, and we love each other, and we all want to be national champs. And that’s the goal. That’s what we want to be known as.”

Final Team Scores

  1. Penn State — 141.5
  2. Ohio State — 134.5
  3. Iowa — 97
  4. Michigan — 80 (tie)
  5. North Carolina State — 80 (tie)

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