Coming off back-to-back fifth-place finishes at the NCAA Wrestling Championships, Penn State's Nick Lee has his eyes on taking the next step to get himself on top of the podium this season.
With a career record of 63-11 through his first two seasons, Lee has been nothing but consistent for the Nittany Lions since debuting midway through the 2018 season. Following the graduations of Jason Nolf and Bo Nickal, he’ll be called on for more points in duals and during the postseason.
“I think Nick has jumped another level, and it’s up to him to show that,” Penn State coach CaelSanderson said.
The 141-pounder has notched some impressive wins under his belt, finishing third at the Big Ten Championships in 2018, qualifying as the No. 8 seed at the NCAA Championships. After falling in his first match of the tournament, the true freshman fought his way back to earn a fifth-place finish and All-American status.
Despite an impressive end to his freshman campaign, Lee was not satisfied with another fifth-place finish his sophomore year. He did hand eventual runner-up Joey McKenna his first loss of the season, however, and in the process, helped Penn State win a huge dual meet against Ohio State. Still, Lee expected a deeper run in the NCAA tournament.
“It’s always disappointing whenever you’re not finishing on the top, which is where I want to be, but I am not gonna regret anything I did,” Lee said. “I gave 100% effort, so I am just gonna take the lessons I learned from last year, and the year before, and take that into this year.”
Lee views losing the last years as a good opportunity to correct his mistakes. With national champion Yianni Diakomihalis and All-American Jaydin Eierman both taking Olympic redshirt years, and runner-up McKenna graduated, Lee will have a good shot at making a national championship run this year.
To do that, though, Lee also wants to work on some techniques to take the next step as a contender for the 141-pound title.
“It’s hard to put one finger on what I want to improve on,” Lee said. “I definitely have some things in mind…I want to improve takedowns, I want to improve on the bottom, and I’d like to get some more back points.”
With a new season ready to begin, everyone is starting at 0-0. Coming into the year ranked No. 3 at 141-pounds, the junior certainly has as good an opportunity as ever to show the country he’s got what it takes to be a national champion.