2017 NCAAs; pre-Nationals Notes & Quotes

Updated: March 15, 2017

NCAA’s next three-peaters?

Illinois’ Isaiah Martinez, Cornell’s Gabe Dean and Missouri’s J’den Cox will be shooting for a third NCAA championship; joining a list that includes 46 former all-time collegians who have accomplished such a task.

Cox proved last summer he is ready to move on to international freestyle when he surprised many by qualifying for the 2016 Rio Olympics … and then claiming a bronze medal at 86 kilograms.

Gabe Dean

Dean, who is fortunate to train with one of those former multi-winners in Kyle Dake, who is also one of four former college wrestlers to have claimed four titles (the others being Pat Smith of Oklahoma State, Cael Sanderson of Iowa State and Logan Stieber of Ohio State), and also expected to take on the world after college.

Following this year’s NCAAs, the native of Michigan must also decide on his freestyle future.

“I’m taking it a step at a time,” said Dean. “I plan on wrestling internationally as long as I can after college. It’s something I want to pursue. It’s something that I hope to do some day, just like Kyle and J’den (Cox). I take one opportunity after the next that comes my way and try not to get too ahead of myself. So whatever happens, I’m focused on this tournament right now and whatever happens after that I’ll take it as it comes.”

Will the NCAA sponsor a National Duals?

The 2017 NCAA Championships marks the 87th time the national tournament — which determines the traditional team champion — will be held. But some of the talk before this year’s event — which runs Thursday through Saturday in St. Louis’ Scottrade Center — was about the National Duals … and its future impact on the the sport of college wrestling.

Oklahoma State drew nearly 15,000 fans to is season-finale against Penn State … in the championship bout of the NWCA National Duals.

Now sponsored by the National Wrestling Coaches Association where the top Big Ten Conference teams competed againt eight non-Big Ten schools — highlighted by two straight years that saw Penn State beat Oklahoma State for the “team” championship, there are some who would like to see the NCAA sponsor the event that originally began as the Virginia Duals.

“The sport’s growing, dual meets are important to our fans,” said Penn State coach Cael Sanderson. “They’re important to us as coaches. They’re important to the student-athletes who participate in them. I think it’s important for the future of the sport to keep those dual meets, but getting bigger and bigger and getting them on TV. And that’s what’s happening right now. Just keep rolling.”

“I’m a big fan of dual meets,” said Iowa coach Tom Brands. “Dual meets are important. I’m just not sure that our format’s the best. But I do know the impact that big marquee matchups have, and a lot’s been said about Penn State and Oklahoma State at Stillwater at the end of February. That was a big event. That was a big dual, a big crowd. And that’s important.”

But Sanderson, Brands and other coaches have been criticized for not competing in past National Duals, including when the NWCA created an advancement tournament that has come in many different forms.

“If we can’t make a decision on dual meets between the coaches, then it needs to be taken out of our hands,” said Oklahoma State head coach John Smith. “Maybe we shouldn’t be making these decisions of what we’re doing, if we can’t agree. I think we can find a pretty mutual agreement if some common sense is made. It may not help my team, but in the long run to continue to grow the sport and continue to create exciting dual meets, that’s what needs to happen. And if we can’t get it done, then hopefully somebody will.”

Spencer Lee is still Spencer Lee

A year from now, Brands may have Spencer Lee from Franklin Regional High School of Pennsylvania in his lineup considering the senior is also a three-time World champ on both the Cadet and Junior level in freestyle.

Spencer Lee

But Lee also recently failed to win a fourth Pennsylvania state championship when he lost 6-5 to Austin DeSanto of Exeter High School in the 126-pound championships.

That doesn’t mean that Iowa’s Tom Brands, who signed Lee to a scholarship last November, thinks anything less of Lee.

“Spencer Lee is a competitor,” said Brands. “He’s going forward and he’ll be just fine.”