original photo courtesy of Richard Immel
The Open Mat’s College Wrestler of the Week award goes to Penn State University’s 141 lber, Nick Lee. When the new national rankings come out on Tuesday, Lee will take the top spot at the 141 lb weight class. He gets to move up a spot from his current number two ranking after his win over the previous number one, Luke Pletcher (Ohio State). Both Pletcher and Lee came into Saturday night’s dual meet undefeated and in the midst of the Hodge Trophy race. Pletcher had won all 23 of his matches, including a second career title at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational and had doubled his career bonus point percentage. Nick was just as impressive, capturing bonus points in 15 of his 16 bouts.
In the match itself, it was Pletcher who struck first with a takedown and prevented the Nittany Lion from getting anywhere close to his legs through a period and a half. The match quickly shifted to Lee’s favor in the second period when he struck with a single leg and secured a takedown after a brief scramble. Nick then attempted to sink a bar in and rode Pletcher for the remaining 50-plus seconds in the second. In addition, Pletcher was cited for stalling for a second time, which gave Lee a 4-3 lead heading into the third period. In the final stanza, Pletcher’s pace slowed down and he took a shot which was countered by the Nittany Lion for another takedown. Lee would ride the Buckeye for most of the period, only allowing an escape in the final five seconds of the bouts. By that time, Lee had already done enough to clinch a riding time point in his 8-4 win. Almost 16,000 Penn State fans in the Bryce Jordan Center got to their feet and saluted their 141 lber. Penn State would go on to win the dual over their neighbors to the west, 20-16.
The win by Lee will send him into the Big Ten Championships as the top seed at the 141 lb weight class. It also marks the second time in less than a week that Lee defeated a returning All-American (Mitch McKee – Minnesota being the other). Lee’s win over Pletcher was only the second regular decision of the year for the Nittany Lion, which brings his bonus point rate “down” to 88%. Nick and Penn State teammates will close out the regular season by hosting a non-conference dual against American on Sunday. There Lee will likely face #22 Sal Profaci. For the year, Lee has now defeated seven wrestlers currently ranked in the top 25 and three past All-Americans. Even with Nick getting the win over Pletcher Saturday night, most fans anticipate that it was the first of three possible meetings between the pair, with potential matches at the Big Tens and NCAA’s on the horizon.