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BREAKING: Nittany Lion great Nick Lee joins Penn State wrestling staff

Friday, Cael Sanderson announced that two-time National Champion Nick Lee is joining the Penn State wrestling staff as an assistant coach.



Penn State wrestling, Nick Lee, Cael Sanderson
Mar 18, 2022; Detroit, MI, USA; Penn State wrestler Nick Lee celebrates after defeating Stanford wrestler Real Woods (not pictured) in a 141 pound weight class semifinal match during the NCAA Wrestling Championships at Little Cesars Arena. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Two-time National Champion Nick Lee will be joining his former coach matside. On Friday, Penn State wrestling coach Cael Sanderson announced that the former Nittany Lions wrestler will be joining his full-time staff. Lee will be replacing former assistant coach Jimmy Kennedy, who left to follow David Taylor to Oklahoma State.

Two-time National Champion to join Penn State wrestling staff

Cael Sanderson did not waste much time filling the vacancy on his Penn State wrestling coaching staff. On Friday, Sanderson announced on the Strong and Grateful podcast that former Nittany Lion wrestler and two-time National Champion Nick Lee would be joining the program as an assistant coach.

Lee quickly made his mark on the Penn State wrestling program, finishing fifth at the NCAA Championships in the 2017-18 season with a 32-7 record as a true freshman. The Evansville, Indiana, native would follow it up with a second-straight All-American finish the next year.

Lee started his junior season with 20 straight wins before falling in the finals of the Big Ten Championships. He was named a first-team All-American, but was snubbed the chance at a title with the cancellation of the national tournament due to COVID-19.

But Nick Lee would come back with a vengeance after the COVID pandemic, going a combined 34-1 over his final two seasons. He would finally reach the podium, winning two National Championships to close out his college career.

On the international stage, Lee took Gold at 65 kg at the Pan American Championship in Acapulco, Mexico, in February. He fell to fellow NLWC member and now first-time Olympian Zain Retherford at Olympic Trials in April.

Nick Lee replaces Jimmy Kennedy, who left the Penn State wrestling staff on May 9 to follow his brother-in-law David Taylor to Oklahoma State. Kennedy joined the Nittany Lions in a volunteer role in 2021 after Jake Varner moved to focus on the NLWC. He became a paid assistant last year following an NCAA rule change.

Aaron Brooks: Nick Lee would be an ideal candidate for a coach

We already know that Nick Lee has the support of one prominent former member of the Penn State wrestling program. Speaking on the Baschamania podcast last week, four-time National Champion Aaron Brooks said Lee would make one of his ideal candidates to replace Jimmy Kennedy. 

“I think Nick Lee or Zain would be really cool,” Brooks said. “Because they wrestled the weight, you know. I think Nick and Zain would be really good coaches. They really care about the guys, so I think those two are really good guys. Those are honorable men. If I had to, it’s not my decision, but if I had to [it would be one of them].”

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Matt is a co-owner and Editor in Chief of Basic Blues Nation. Launched in 2022, Basic Blues Nation is one of the fastest-growing websites covering all Penn State athletics, with over 3.5 million readers in 2023. Matt is also a credentialed member of the Penn State football beat, and is a member of the Football Writers Association of America.


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