Spencer Lee continues to be as dominant off the mat as he is on it.
Nine days after winning his third in NCAA championship and four days after withdrawing from the United States Olympic Team Trials because of an ACL tear he suffered before dominating the 125-pound field at the NCAA tourney, the Iowa wrestler was named Monday as the winner of the Dan Hodge Trophy for a second straight year.
The award is presented annually to the nation’s most dominant collegiate wrestler.
“It’s humbling. I’ve always gone out there trying to win an NCAA title for my team. I’m not thinking about pins or tech falls, I’m thinking about scoring that next point and then scoring the next one,’’ Lee said Monday. “That’s what I’ve always tried to be about.’’
Lee shared the 2021 award with Minnesota 285-pounder Gable Steveson, just the second time in the 27-year history of the award that the selection committee chose to name two recipients.
“Gable’s an incredible athlete, an incredible person, and he’ll be super successful at whatever he does,’’ Lee said. “… I think he’s going to win Olympic gold this summer.’’
Lee won’t get that opportunity, putting that dream on hold to get healthy and rejuvenate, announcing Friday that would not participate in next weekend’s Trials.
“It’s the best thing for me,’’ Lee said.
His coach at Iowa, Tom Brands, said that decision demonstrated another of the trait the Hodge committee considers, heart.
“To be as dominant as he is, to have the character he has and to deal with the adversity he dealt with, the heart he showed as he competed, that’s Spencer Lee,’’ Brands said.
Lee missed total domination by one point during the shortened 2021 season.
Finishing the year 12-0, Lee scored bonus points in 11 matches and recorded five first-period falls. He outscored his opponents 141-15 and his 91.6 bonus-point percentage ranked as the best in the nation.
Lee outscored his five opponents at the NCAA Championships 59-8, including a 7-0 win in his championship match that was the largest margin of victory in any of the 10 weight classes in the finals.
“He could have released that guy and went back in for the major then, but zero on the board, that was important, too,’’ Brands said.
Lee concluded the 2021 season riding a 35-match win streak, having outscored his opponents 432-42 during that stretch.
With his selection, Lee becomes the fifth wrestler to win the Hodge Trophy presented by WIN Magazine and Culture House on multiple occasions.