MADISON – We live in a world where instant gratification is the norm. Patience, a lost virtue. Superlatives, thrown around needlessly to those undeserving.
Robert Lee, however, is the absolute anti-thesis to all those above statements. A dedicated, superb athlete with a steady work ethic who will be remembered by generations of Kaukauna wrestlers for years to come.
With three state championships in his career, Lee has put himself among the great Fox Valley area athletes. Of that, there is no doubt.
“He’s meant the world to our program,” Kaukauna coach Jeff Matczak said. “He’s a great kid, humble. He’s everything you want. He’s a hard worker and he wins in a lot of ways. He can put points on the board as we’ve seen all year and he leads our school in pins and he wins.”
Lee defeated Burlington’s Ben Hornickle 5-4 in Saturday’s WIAA Division 1 138-pound title match at the Kohl Center.
Hornickle tried to defuse Lee’s prolific offensive attack by playing low to the ground and forcing Lee into stalling situations. And that was a common theme by Lee’s opponents throughout the state tournament, according to Matczak.
“This week, when teams are going to clam up on the bottom and force him to get stalling on top. He’s a pinner and he’s had about three or four pinning combination that he uses. They took that way from him but still kept his composure,” Matczak said.
Three championships in four years. Of course, Lee should be a four-time champion had it not been for a questionable call that robbed him of a state championship his sophomore year. But that’s another column for another time.
What we know is this: Lee’s legacy isn’t just limited to the gold medals, the championship pictures on the wall in the Kaukauna wrestling room and the black and white print of the sports pages and WIAA wrestling history book.
It’s the leadership by example. Those runs through Kaukauna while participating in “Camp Leon” with teammates. The composure during the tough times. The hours upon hours put in at tournaments throughout Wisconsin and throughout the nation. The love and dedication he has shown his younger brothers as they start their wrestling careers.
Lee’s legacy will live on because it has been witnessed by fans, parents and coaches. They’ll speak of his accomplishments, especially when wrestling season rolls around. They’ll smile and laugh when thinking of championships and mutter in frustration at the one title that was taken away.
It’s hard to think of another athlete who has accomplished so much in such an honorable manner, which begs the question: Will there ever be another Robert Lee?
The answer is tied to Lee’s legacy. He has resonated with the youth wrestlers. The ever-growing crop of future varsity stars that has made Kaukauna the gold standard in high school wrestling.
And Lee is proud to know that younger wrestlers on the rise are aiming to break his school records.
“I’m just a weird kid,” Lee said. “I love having my (younger) brothers follow me and stuff and try to set goals that they can break. But it’s not just for my brothers, it can be anybody that’s coming up as a freshman and they can try and up me. (Coach Matczak) just told me I tied for the all-time winningest record in Kaukauna and I have a chance at breaking that next weekend (at team state).
“And with me breaking it, the new freshman can try and up me. It sets a high bar for them.”
That young kid Lee described is very real. He’s working on his moves on the mat. He’s starting to put together a workout regimen. He’s hungry. Willing to put in the work. And he’s just witnessed the crowning achievement of the greatest wrestler the Kaukauna program has ever had.
The march of champions before the WIAA individual wrestling state tournament at the Kohl Center in Madison on Saturday.
— Ricardo Arguello: 920-993-1000, ext. 558, or firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter @PCRicardo