U wrestling’s Brayton Lee talks moving up weight class and upcoming Big Ten championships

Lee moved up from the 149-pound class to 157 this year.

Gophers Brayton Lee fights a takedown at Maturi Pavilion on Sunday, Feb. 9, 2020. The Gophers lost to Penn State 31-10.

Parker Johnson

Gophers Brayton Lee fights a takedown at Maturi Pavilion on Sunday, Feb. 9, 2020. The Gophers lost to Penn State 31-10.

Matthew Kennedy, Sports Reporter

Brayton Lee has been one of the top wrestlers for the Gophers wrestling team this year, going 7-2 over nine matches in the 157-pound weight class with his most notable win against then-No. 6 Kendall Coleman of Purdue. Lee is currently ranked No. 6 in the nation at 157.

In 2020, Lee was situated at 149 pounds and made the jump to 157 for the 2021 season. It hasn’t made much of a difference to the redshirt sophomore from Brownsburg, Indiana.

“I mean, it hasn’t been too much different,” Lee said. “The guys, I think some of them are a little bit longer; their frames are a little bit bigger. But I haven’t really had a moment where I’ve really thought these guys were a lot stronger and bigger.”

Lee also said the reason for the switch was natural. He had to diet to stay at 149, and 157 is around his regular build, so it takes some mental pressure off his mind when making weight each week.

Next on the agenda for Lee and the rest of the team is the Big Ten championships. The brackets aren’t finalized for Saturday yet, so Lee still isn’t sure who he’ll be facing when he hits the mat.

But, he was glad to have wrestled the best 157-pound wrestler in the Big Ten — No. 2 Ryan Deakin of Northwestern — in the last dual of the regular season. Cleaning up some areas going into a possible future matchup against Deakin and capitalizing on more opportunities next time is important for Lee.

Lee said practicing for the upcoming Big Ten championships has been mostly light, focusing on technique, and once in a while the team will “rev it up” to simulate possible matchups. Lee is looking to come out as loose as possible; he knows he won’t be as anxious or nervous as when he competed in the event last season — the team’s last showing before the pandemic.

“The Big Tens are really a fun atmosphere,” Lee said. “With no fans it could be a little different, but being there for your teammates, going out there watching them and then coming back into the back room — this weekend always offers really good excitement.”

The Big Ten championships will take place at Penn State University from March 6 to 7.