The Veteran & The Rookie: Nathan Tomasello vs. Spencer Lee

In all likelihood Columbus, OH on Sunday will showcase two wrestlers on opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of their college careers; one is a tested and tried veteran with accolades to show for it, the other, a rookie with three age level world titles and one of the most popular names of recent memory.

When Pennsylvania native Spencer Lee meets Ohio State senior Nathan Tomasello, fans will see a match many thought would be unlikely to happen. Two of the most recognizable lightweights going head-to-head. One will be looking to solidify his hold as the Nation’s best 125 lbs. wrestler while the other will be looking to prove his worth and show college wrestling – the hype is real.


The Veteran

Nathan Tomasello, a wrestler who has been one of the most consistent wrestlers of the last four years at Ohio State, is the #1 ranked wrestler in the Nation at 125 lbs. by all major networks and is a fifth year senior. The Ohio native was a 4-time State Champion while at Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy (CVCA) amassing a career record of (178-5) and graduating in 2013. Tomasello capped his high school career with an appearance in the Dapper Dan Wrestling Classic where he competed for Team USA at 120 lbs., earning a (3-2) win over Darian Cruz of Bethlehem Catholic. Two years later, in March 2015, Nathan Tomasello reached the pinnacle of college wrestling as the redshirt freshman claimed a NCAA National Championship at 125 lbs. for Ohio State. In the next two seasons Tomasello was unable to repeat as Champion despite claiming a Big Ten Championship in each of his appearances. In 2016 he was third at 125 lbs. and last season he moved up to 133 lbs. where he was again third at the National Tournament. 


The Rookie

The name Spencer Lee invokes many thoughts, feelings, and opinions in wrestling fans. He is a relentless competitor who has been compared to all the Sport’s greatest. People may think about his decision to become a Hawkeye rather than a Nittany Lion, his only high school career defeat in the Pennsylvania State finals against Austin DeSanto, or his capturing of three World Championships in Freestyle before his 18th birthday. Now in his first year at Iowa Spencer Lee finds himself in an interesting and unique situation: the underdog. For an athlete who has dominated competition for so long Spencer Lee is now the new kid on the block, a block where the only awards that matter are those earned on the elevated stage.


The Clash

Five years ago Nathan Tomasello was finishing up his high school career that would go down as one of Ohio’s best ever. Spencer Lee was still an eighth grader who had finished as runner-up in the Super 32 high school division, and quickly gaining National attention. Nine months ago Nathan Tomasello was competing at 133 lbs. in the Big Ten Championship while Spencer Lee was competing with a newly torn ACL. Everyone knows the story. Now a rollercoaster of emotion over the last year is just getting started. After dealing with his second serious injury a healthy Spencer is getting a shot at the best competition straight away for the storied Iowa Hawkeyes.

For all their differences there is one thing that ties these two wrestlers together. Both have suffered defeats to Oklahoma State’s true freshman Daton Fix. Tomasello fell to Fix in two straight matches at the U23 World Team Trials in October 2017. Fix won the 57 kg weight class with (8-7) and (7-4) wins over Tomasello. Spencer’s defeat to Daton Fix came in May 2015 at the Cadet World Team Trials where Fix came from behind in both matches to win (5-5) and (9-6) over Lee.

Fans will talk about the size differences, the maturity level, the gas tanks, and much more while discussing NATOvLEE but one thing remains certain; it will be a high quality affair between two warriors who can count on one hand the number of defeats they have taken in the last several years.


To Date

Nathan Tomasello made a late start to the season after a lower back injury suffered in October at the U23 World Team Trials. His return has been highlighted by dismantling 2017 NCAA Runner-up Ethan Lizak (Parkland/Minnesota) by tech-fall. Spencer Lee on the other hand competed twice unattached winning the UNI Open and injury defaulting to sixth place at Midlands. There he earned a tech-fall over NCAA All-American Sean Russell (Edinboro) but fell to Oregon State’s Ronnie Bresser. Once the redshirt was pulled Lee has won two straight matches and is coming off a (10-5) win over returning NCAA fourth place medalist Nick Piccininni (Oklahoma State).


Nathan Tomasello – RS SR – (2-0)

01/05/18 – 125: Nathan Tomasello (Ohio State) over Brandon Cray (Maryland) (TF 18-2)
01/12/18 – 125: Nathan Tomasello (Ohio State) over Ethan Lizak (Minnesota) (TF 18-3)


Spencer Lee – FR – (8-1)

12/09/17 – 125: Spencer Lee (Iowa) over Dack Punke (Missouri) (TF 16-0 3:43)
12/09/17 – 125: Spencer Lee (Iowa) over Johnny Jimenez (Wisconsin) (Fall 1:16)
12/09/17 – 125: Spencer Lee (Iowa) over Skyler Petry (Minnesota) (Fall 2:53)
12/29/17 – 125: Spencer Lee (Iowa) over Killian Cardinale (Old Dominion) (Fall 1:20)
12/29/17 – 125: Spencer Lee (Iowa) over Travis Piotrowski (Illinois) (TF 17-2 3:37)
12/30/17 – 125: Spencer Lee (Iowa) over Sean Russell (Edinboro) (TF 15-0 4:05)
12/30/17 – 125: Ronnie Rios (Oregon State) over Spencer Lee (Iowa) (Dec 3-1)
01/05/18 – 125: Spencer Lee (Iowa) over RayVon Foley (Michigan State) (Fall 0:46)
01/14/18 – 125: Spencer Lee (Iowa) over Nicholas Piccininni (Oklahoma State) (Dec 10-5)


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