2020 Hodge Trophy Winner - Spencer Lee

 Posted: 14-Apr-2020   |    Author: Gardner Wheeler
 Keywords:  Hodge Trophy Winners Iowa Spencer Lee 2020 Season

Spencer Lee, 2020's WIN-Magazine Hodge Trophy Winner, came out on fire this season and hardly let off the gas pedal throughout. We'll review some of the highlights of this season and take a look at Spencer's collegiate career thus far.

Spencer Lee Gives the Thumbs Up after Winning the 2019 NCAAs Photo by Tony Rotundo - Spencer Lee Gives the Thumbs Up after Winning the 2019 NCAAs

Shut-down, Smother, Blanket, Dominate - Just a Few of the Words that Describe Spencer Lee's Wrestling

  • I knew Spencer Lee was a dominant wrestler
  • I knew he had a special brand of wrestling
  • I knew he was dominant in his top game

What I didn't realize or remember as I started putting together this article: Spencer's dominance and smothering wrestling style was there right from the start.

Dominance out of the Gate

As I started gathering Spencer's stats, beginning with the 2017-18 season, I was astounded. No one is scoring points against Spencer Lee. No one is getting out of the first period unscathed. At the UNI Open and the through the quarters of Midlands, Spencer had wrestled 6 matches with these results:

First 6 Matches of Spencer's College Career

  • 3 Tech Falls
  • 3 Falls
  • Average Match Length 2:49 seconds
  • The 3 tech falls finished in the 2nd period
  • Longest match: 4:05 against Sean Russell, Edinboro in the Quarters at the Midlands

After taking a loss against Ronnie Bresser, Oregon State, at the Midlands, Spencer wrestled 7 matches in the Big 10 Dual Season and 1 Dual against Oklahoma State.

Last 8 Matches of Spencer's First College Regular Season

  • 3 pins
  • 2 tech falls
  • 3 decisions against Tomasello, Piccinnini, Rivera

How does Spencer Compare to Shut-Down Corners in the NFL

As the dominance continued, I started looking for comparison examples from other sports. The best comparison I came up with was to that of the NFL Cornerback, specifically "Shut-down" corners. I think that is a fitting comparison even though a corner's primary focus is defense and wrestlers are obviously responsible for defense, offense, and special teams.

One stat I read described an NFL "Shut-Down" corner who had allowed an average of just 10 yards after the catch throughout a recent season. This type of play leads to turn-overs, your opponent making mistakes, and your team having more chances to score. I'd say that is a fair comparison to Spencer's approach to wrestling at the college level. He looks to shut you down, smother your attempts to score or gain any advantage, while capitalizing on all opportunities so that he can to score points of his own at a blistering pace.

Dominance Overview

Here's a quick overview of Spencer's Dominance by season.

YearRecordDomDecFallsTFMDBonus %Finish %Match LengthMatch Pts*MPER
201822-24.58498175.0%70.8%4:22216 - 240.900
201923-34.27487473.1%57.7%3:55258 - 400.866
2020**17-04.94149394.1%76.5%3:42228 - 180.927

*Includes points scored during matches ending in a Fall

**In matches wrestled. Spencer Lee had one win by forfeit.

1st Period Dominance Notes

Striking First and Opponent Offensive Points in the 1st Period

Pretty Good at securing the first points in a match and also at not conceding many (if any) offensive points to his opponents:

YearXs on FeetTDsOpp. TDsOpp. R21st Pts ScoredNotes
201830260024 of 24I believe the numbers speak for themselves
201931242123 of 26R2 by Pat Glory. Zeke Moisey, Nic Piccinnini & Sebastian Rivera (Midlands) scored first
202027240117 of 17Reversed by Alex Mackell, Iowa State

Scoring Quickly & Scoring on Top in the 1st Period

Pretty Good at Scoring and at Scoring on Top in the first period:

YearXs on Top4NF2NFFallsTop Scoring Rate*Match Points*Opp. Off. PtsMPER
2018262447135%198 - 600.971
2019243125158%211 - 960.959
2020243244167%210 - 1020.955

*Times a Nearfall or Fall is scored as compared to the times on top

*Includes points scored during matches ending in a Fall

Opponents' Activity in the 1st Period was Limited to Say the Least

The first period is rough for Spencer Lee's opponents.

YearTDRev.EscStall WarningsCautionsPenalty Pts Given

The Dominance Didn't End in the 1st

Here's a quick look at how Spencer started subsequent periods throughout his career:

  • 2018 - was tied 5x going into the 2nd and 3rd periods
  • 2019 - trailed 2x and was tied 2x going into the 2nd or 3rd period and went to overtime 1x
  • 2020 - never trailed starting any subsequent period, which is typical for Hodge Trophy Winners

Later Periods During the 2020 Regular Season

2nd Period:

  • Reached the 2nd Period in 9 of 17 matches wrestled (52.9%)
  • 5 of those matches ended in the 2nd period via Technical Fall
  • Was on his feet 7x, gaining 4 takedowns, giving up 1 TD to Fabian Gutierrez, Chattanooga, in a 16-5 MD in the 1st match of the year
  • Ended the period on his feet 2x: once each versus Gutierrez & Piccinnini

3rd Period:

  • Wrestled in the 3rd Period in 4 of 17 matches wrestled or only 23.5%
  • Full-time matches ended in 3 Major Decisions and 1 Decision
  • Was on his feet 5x, gaining 2 takedowns, giving up 1 TD to Nic Piccinnini, OK State, in a 12-3 MD in their Dual, the last regular season match of the year
  • Ended the period on his feet 2x: 1x vs. Piccinnini & 1x vs. Jack Medley, Michigan, his one decision on the year

What About Spencer's Losses in his First Two Years

I found it significant that Spencer's only losses came in key tournaments to eventual All Americans.

2018 Lost to two All Americans

  • Ronnie Bresser (7th), Oregon State, a 1-3 loss in the Midlands Semis
  • Nathan Tomasello (3rd), Ohio State, a 1-2 loss in the Big Ten Championships Semis, which Spencer avenged at the NCAA Semis via Fall

2019 Lost to two All Americans

  • Sebastian Rivera (6th), Northwestern,
    • Midlands Finals: a 3-7 loss
    • Big Ten Championships Finals: a 4-6 Sudden Victory-1 loss
  • Nic Piccinnini (5th), OK State, a loss by fall at the dual in Stillwater, with the score prior to the fall 0-3

But Don't Forget How Spencer has Shined at the NCAAs

I hate to write about the NCAAs for the 2020 Hodge Trophy winner, who didn't have a chance to finish out the season at that tournament. I also don't love the Hodge Trophy as much when it is only a regular season award -- the NCAA Wrestling Championships - a true national tournament (in most years) - is what makes the Hodge that much more awesome than the Heisman, which I wrote about in this article.

At the same time -- I don't feel you can't write about Spencer Lee's college career without talking about his impressive runs during his Freshman and Sophomore years at the D1 NCAA Wrestling Championships. So, here are few reminders about those runs.

NCAA Championships Performance by Year


  • Outscored his opponents 60-4
  • Outscored opponents 42-1 in the first period
  • Two Tech Falls at 1:41 and 3:59 in the first 2 rounds respectively
  • Two Falls at 3:58 in the quarters against Piccinnini and at 6:05 in the semis against Tomasello
  • A 5-1 Decision in the Finals against Nick Suriano, Rutgers, and it didn't even look that close


  • Outscored his opponents 55-7
  • Outscored opponents 19-2 in the first period
  • A Tech Fall at 6:27 in the opening round
  • A 10-1 Major Decision in the second round
  • A Fall at 5:59 in the quarters
  • An 11-4 Major Decision in the semis against Piccinnini
  • An impressive 5-0 Decision against Jack Mueller in the finals

NCAA Championships Performance Table

YearMatch Points*MP in 1st*DomDecFallsTFMDBonus %Finish %Avg Match Length

*Includes points scored during matches ending in a Fall

NCAA Championships Notes

YearFinalsSignificant Wins
2018A 5-1 decision against Nick Suriano, Rutgers, that didn't look that closeFalls in Quarters & Semis against Piccinnini & Tomasello
2019An impressive 5-0 Decision against Jack MuellerMajor against Piccinnini in the semis

In Conclusion

I hope you enjoyed reviewing Spencer Lee's college career to date. Spencer has truly found ways to be smothering on top - he blankets guys on top like snow covers an entire landscape. Check out his 3DWS Stats for even more details. And, we wish Spencer continued success during his college career.

Snow Blanketing a House and Forest Photo by Medena Rosa - Snow Blanketing a House and Forest on Unsplash

Spencer Lee Career in Numbers by Hodge Trophy Criteria

3D Wrestler Stats
It's great to see the strengths and weakness for each wrestler in each wrestling position listed out in such an easy to read format. This along with the team scorecard makes it easy to know where to place our emphasis when designing practices and working with individual wrestlers.
Coach Scott Pace