|Spencer Lee of Iowa Looks to win his fourth NCAA title this season|
Throughout the years of collegiate wrestling, every now and again we'll be treated to the likes of a phenomenal sensation such as Spencer Lee. Dominant throughout their younger years, by the time they are a senior we often wonder, "Will anyone challenge them this season?" "CAN anyone challenge them this season?" It reminds me of Cael Sanderson back in the 2001-2002 season, twenty years ago who entered his final season undefeated with three national titles. The question wasn't whether anyone could beat him or not. The question was could anyone go the distance with him? Who could keep from getting pinned or tech'd? Could anyone keep themselves from getting majored?
The answer all those years ago was a sophomore from Lehigh by the name of Jon Trenge. While everyone else was going out on the mat to get completely annihilated by Sanderson in a series of takedowns and backpoints, it was the Mountain Hawk who slowed down the pace and lost by a respectable 6-1 decision. Suddenly the wrestling fans had their answer. Who could give Sanderson a match? Jon Trenge.
|Jon Trenge who gave Cael Sanderson the closest match of his senior season|
As luck would have it, Trenge dominated his way to the NCAA finals to get a second shot against whom many to this day still consider to be the greatest collegiate wrestler of all time. This time Sanderson was able to get the major in a 12-4 decision. Still a much closer match than anyone else gave him that season.
Now the question is, who will be Lee's Jon Trenge this season?
|Patrick Glory of Princeton|
You're looking at him, Pat Glory of Princeton. That is your answer. Lee is going to pin, tech and major his way through this season. He'll get on the mat and dominate nearly every opponent he steps on the mat with. All, but maybe two. Vitali Arujau of Cornell is the other one who might go the distance with Lee this season. As to Glory, the first time he met Lee, Lee garnered a technical fall 18-2. The next time the two met, Glory kept it to a 12-6 decision. Can Glory tighten the gap even more? Hard to say. The Ivy League didn't do him any favors by keeping Princeton out of action last season, but maybe that time away might actually work to his advantage. In the room with him he has two time NCAA champion Joe Dubuque, who you know is working with him night and day in effort to figure out a way to win this match. Lee is just so good. I don't see him being upset but I can see Glory getting a takedown or a reversal or doing something inside of Carver Hawkeye Arena to get a gasp from the crowd that will be heard throughout all of Iowa City, North Liberty and Coralville. Glory keep this match within 4 points? At this point, that in itself is a victory.
The worst thing that can happen in this situation is for Iowa to sit Lee and we see Ybarra instead. Nothing against Yabarra, but we wrestling fans deserve better. You go to a dual like this to see a match like this. It's the Marquee of the evening. The Main Event. The type of match that puts rear-ends into the seats. The type of match where someone sitting at home has a choice between watching wrestling or something else on the tube, and because of it, they're sticking to wrestling. (For the record if Lee is not 100% ready to go and not 100% healthy, I 100% support, recognize and respect that. Health is #1. Not afraid to say though and be vocal that I'm not a fan of protecting rankings/future seeds. Be mad if you will, I think it's unethical and doesn't belong in our sport. Have your opinion, I have mine.)
Your's truly will be in attendance for this dual and I'm anxious to see how Princeton fares against the #1 team in the nation. I've been following wrestling ever since my dad took me to my first dual meet in November of 1991. The Brands were seniors that year! Hard to believe that I've been watching collegiate wrestling that long. I tell you I've seen some great Iowa Hawkeye teams, but I don't hesitate to say that top to bottom, this is the best team I've ever seen. Iowa has never put 10 wrestlers on the award stand at the NCAA's before, and I honestly think this will be the year Iowa does it.
Does Princeton get shut out by the Hawkeyes? There's a chance, but there's also a chance that Princeton could walk away from this dual with two wins.
157 - Kaleb Young Vs Quincy Monday
At this point they're 1-1. Young owns a 7-4 decision and Monday owns a 3-2 decision. Young has struggled in high pressure situations in the past, but he's had plenty of time and plenty of coaching to get his head straight and power through these challenges. Monday will be a great test for him on Friday. At home in front of thousands of black and gold faithful, I think he'll prevail, but it'll be anything but easy. He'll have one of the toughest challenges of the night.
184 - Abe Assad/Nelson Brands Vs Travis Stefanik
Assad or Brands, doesn't matter. Either of them will struggle with Stefanik. Stefanik defeated Brands 7-6 and Assad needed sudden victory to defeat the Tiger 7-5. Regardless of who Iowa starts, we're looking at a competitive match here.
To Iowa as a whole, Princeton doesn't give much of a match. Iowa will win this one by a large marge as they said back in 1985. However, individually the Hawkeyes will be challenged at a few weights.