A former Payson High School wrestling star who went un-recruited by Arizona State University has won his second successive Pac-10 wrestling championship. On Nate Lee’s way to the 174-pound weight division crown, he also helped Boise State win its second Pac-10 Wrestling Championship.
Among the teams the Broncos stampeded in the tournament was Arizona State who produced only one Pac-10 individual champion as compared to Boise State’s six.
ASU also trailed in the final team standings, finishing fifth.
If there was a tournament moment when Lee might have left ASU recruiters more than a bit red-faced, it was when he won the title by defeating Sun Devil Eric Stark, 5-2 in the championship finale.
When Lee went unrecruited by his home state university in 2005, the slight had local fans and boosters more than a bit rankled.
Some asked after Lee had won an unprecedented four state high school weight class championships, “How can ASU let this one get away?”
Now, Lee has proven that he was the prize ASU coaches and recruiters should have been courting all along.
With the Pac-10 title in hand, Lee advances to the 2009 NCAA wrestling championships March 19 to 21 in St. Louis.
Last year, in Lee’s second consecutive NCAA tournament appearance, he won two matches before being eliminated from the fray. In the first round, he defeated No. 8-ranked Gabriel Dretsch of Minnesota, 3-1. In the second round he whipped No. 9 Brandon Mason of Oklahoma State, 2-1.
The quarterfinals were tough on the former Horn who was pitted against No. 1 Keith Gavin of Pittsburgh. Although Lee wrestled with great determination, he lost a 7-4 decision to the eventual national champion. Dropped into the wrestleback bracket, Lee dropped his final match of the tournament to No. 6 Alton Lucas of Hofstra, 9-5.
Foundation built in Payson
During Lee’s tenure on the PHS team, he was the only Longhorn wrestler to ever win four regional and state titles. In compiling a 196-3 record, he went more than three full seasons without a defeat.
Following the 2004-2005 campaign, he was named to the All-Arizona Wrestling Team. Later, in a voting of Arizona Wrestling Coaches Association members, Lee was chosen Arizona’s “Co-wrestler of the Year” along with Tucson wrestlers Nick Gallick and Matt Lopez.
In 2005, he was featured on the front cover of Wrestling USA magazine.
In November 2004, Lee — then a PHS senior — accepted a wrestling scholarship to Boise State University.
During his first season of intercollegiate competition, he barged on to the national scene posting a 28-13 record.
In 2007 Lee was third in the Pac-10 championship tournament.
The following season he won his first conference title.
Nate’s older brother Zack is a former All-American member of the Western State College of Colorado wrestling team, and a younger brother, Ben, recently wrapped up his sophomore season on the PHS squad.