Spencer Lee's ambitions entering 2020 were sky-high: win a Big Ten championship, win an NCAA championship, make the U.S. Olympic team, and win an Olympic gold medal. Unfortunately, COVID-19 threw a wrench into those plans. Lee won a Big Ten championship (his first), but the pandemic led to the cancellation of the NCAA Tournament and the postponement of the Olympics to 2021.
So Lee entered 2021 with the same sky-high ambitions: win a Big Ten championship, win an NCAA championship, make the U.S. Olympic team, and win an Olympic gold medal. Lee won a Big Ten championship (his second) and another NCAA championship (his third) and preparations continue to move forward for the rescheduled Olympics in Tokyo this summer. Unfortunately, Spencer Lee won't be a part of those Olympic Games -- or the U.S. Olympic Trials coming up in a few weeks.
Go Hawks pic.twitter.com/j3TXlaBUKR— Spencer Lee (@LeeSpencerlee36) March 26, 2021
The reason for Lee's decision to not compete in the Olympic Trials is obvious: as he announced after winning his third NCAA championship less than a week ago, he's wrestling on two torn ACLs right now. While he was -- incredibly and improbably -- able to gut through the pain to win another NCAA Championship last weekend, further competition, both at the Olympic Trials in a few weeks (April 2-3 in Fort Worth, TX) and the Olympics in a few months, was probably not prudent. Neither Lee nor Iowa have offered any details on what his recovery process might involve (i.e., whether or not he'll choose to have surgery to repair the ACLs; he did after tearing his right ACL as a high school senior in 2017, but did not after re-tearing his right ACL in the 2019 NCAA Tournament final or after tearing his left ACL in the 2021 Big Ten Tournament final) or what the timetable looks like. The 2021-22 college wrestling season won't kick off until November 2021, though the most meaningful events (the 2022 Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments) won't be until March 2022, so Lee does have quite a long time to heal.
Sadly, for Lee this means that his Olympic dream is deferred yet again. Perhaps the only silver lining is that his wait for the next Olympics won't be quite as long as it normally would -- since this year's Olympics are actually just the rescheduled 2020 Olympics, it will be just three years (instead of the usual four) until the next summer games, in Paris in 2024. Hopefully the wrestling gods smile a bit more kindly on Lee in terms of injuries in the lead up to that event and Lee is able to achieve his Olympic ambitions.
Good luck and godspeed on the recovery front, Spencer. We'll miss seeing you in red, white, and blue this summer, but eagerly look forward to seeing you in black and gold again next year. In the meantime, if you haven't yet voted for Spencer Lee in the fan vote for the Dan Hodge Trophy, get on that. Voting ends at 5 PM CST on Saturday, March 27. The winner will be announced on Monday, March 29.