Wrestling

Three-time Pa. state champ Spencer Lee suffers first loss in final match

Exeter Township’s Austin DeSanto, right, reacts after defeating three-time state champion Spencer Lee of Franklin Regional  (Photo: Chris Dunn/GameTimePA.com)

HERSHEY, Pa.  — Austin DeSanto wanted to end his high school wrestling career by beating Spencer Lee and Lee didn’t want his to end in a doctor’s office.

They both got their wishes, but in bittersweet fashion.

DeSanto, of Exeter, Pa., stopped Lee’s quest for a fourth PIAA Class AAA wrestling championship and handed the Franklin Regional (Murrysville, Pa.) star his first PIAA loss via 6-5 decision inside Giant Center on Saturday night.

A packed crowd exalted as DeSanto circled a wounded Lee and slipped around him for the winning takedown at the buzzer.

Lee, who was trying to become just the 13th four-time PIAA champion, tried to survive the final three minutes of a match he led 3-0 midway through the second period. But his right knee, covered in a large, black brace protecting a torn right ACL, wouldn’t let him fend off a hard-charging DeSanto who won his 53rd straight match since his last loss — a 15-0 drubbing by Lee in last year’s 120-pound finale.

“I’m excited but at the same time I wrestled a hurt Spencer Lee,” DeSanto said. “You could see his knee, he was favoring it the whole time. I just kind of feel bad for him. But at the same time, I’m excited for myself. I worked every day after that tech fall to beat him and I got my dream, I guess.”

DeSanto snagged Lee’s Injured leg for a takedown that tied it 4-4 with 29 seconds left, then bet on himself to finish it off rather than head into overtime. He let Lee regain the lead by letting him up in order to try for the winning takedown, which he got following a brief scramble.

Lee’s coaches argued there was no time left on the clock when DeSanto gained control but referees disagreed.

DeSanto was named Most Outstanding Wrestler of the tournament after becoming the first wrestler in tournament history to beat a three-time champion in the finals.

Although Lee declined to speak with reporters after the match, his father Larry confirmed the Iowa Hawkeye suffered the injury “about a month ago.”

“He didn’t want his career to end in a doctor’s office,” Larry Lee said. “I’m proud of him for making that call. We have an appointment next week to see what type of damage was done to (his knee) the last three weeks and just to see what the answer is. But no excuses, he wrestled the best he could on this day.”

USA TODAY High School Sports contributed to this report