By Tyler Devine
IOWA CITY, Iowa – To his teammates, Spencer Lee is a Jedi Master.
In the Iowa wrestling room, Lee’s version of Yoda’s home planet of Dagobah, the two-time national champion 125-pounder has earned the nickname “Yoda.”
“Spencer is one of kind,” senior 165-pounder Alex Marinelli said. “He’s very unique. We call him Yoda because he can do things with his opponent – it’s just unhuman, or however you call it. He can just use ‘The Force’ and turn guys and pin them and tech them within the first period.
“Off the mat, Spencer Lee is selfless. He’s always talking to you, giving you good vibes. He likes to play video games and stuff, and that’s his thing so I’m not going to knock him for that. But he’s just easygoing. Great parents, great family. What more can you ask for?”
If Lee is Yoda, that would make the quest for a first national title since 2010 Iowa’s version of Darth Vader and The Empire.
But first the Hawkeyes must get past the Big Ten Championships that begin Saturday in University Park, Pennsylvania.
Iowa won the won the 2020 Big Ten Championships but did not get the opportunity to compete for a national title last season because the tournament was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Hawkeyes won all five dual meets this season, outscoring its opponents 166-48 en route to their first Big Ten regular season title since 2015.
Four duals were canceled due to positive COVID cases within the program and by Saturday it will have been a month since Iowa competed.
Lee, a native of Murrysville, Pennsylvania, won the Dan Hodge Trophy last season as the nation’s best wrestler after posting an 18-0 record and scoring bonus points in 17 matches.
In four matches this season, Lee is 4-0 with all four wins coming via first-round falls.
Much like Yoda, Lee’s ego matches his small stature.
Lee said that the nickname came from associate head coach Terry Brands and his son, sophomore 184-pounder Nelson Brands, who are both fans of the Star Wars series.
“It was kind of a meme because they call me Yoda,” Lee said. “And I’m really short. It all kind of makes sense to them, they all found it pretty funny. It’s a compliment to me, I’m not upset about it. It’s pretty cool being called Yoda.”
But the comparisons to otherworldly talents doesn’t stop there.
On Monday, head coach Tom Brands compared Lee what many would consider a modern day Jedi Master.
“The way he talks about what’s next, it’s like an elite minded athlete,” Brands said. “It’s like Michael Jordan. It’s not about what movie am I going to make in the offseason, or what about this name, image, likeness that’s coming down the pipe, how can I make X-amount of dollars. He’s very grounded and all of that will come with consistent, great performances every time out.”