IOWA CITY, Iowa — University of Iowa junior Spencer Lee was named co-winner of the AAU James E. Sullivan Award on Wednesday, presented annually since 1930 to the most outstanding amateur athlete in the United States. The winner is determined by public vote, media vote, and committee vote.
Lee shared the award with Oregon women’s basketball player Sabrina Ionescu. It is the third time in the 90-year history of the Sullivan Award that co-winners were selected.
“I am incredibly humbled,” Lee said. “It was an honor to be nominated and reach the finals, so to be selected among this incredible group of individuals is pretty special. It is great to be the fifth wrestler to win the award, and it is really special to be able to represent the University of Iowa. I am happy to share this award with Sabrina. All of the finalists are deserving. I am very surprised and very thankful.”
Lee is the fifth wrestler to be recognized. He joins Bruce Baumgartner, Rulon Gardner, John Smith, and Kyle Snyder as past amateur wrestling award winners.
He and Ionescu were selected among 10 finalists, including Evita Griskenas (USA rhythmic gymnastics), Grant Holloway (Florida track & field), Markus Howard (Marquette basketball), Trevor Lawrence (Clemson football), Dana Rettke (Wisconsin volleyball), Kyla Ross (UCLA gymnastics), Megan Taylor (Maryland lacrosse), and Abby Weitzeil (Cal swimming & diving).
The Sullivan Awards are held annually at the New York Athletic Club. This is the first year they were held virtually. All 10 of this year’s finalists will be invited to visit the NYAC in 2021. Lee and Ionescu are both invited to celebrate their awards with the AAU at Walt Disney World.
Representatives from the AAU created the AAU James E. Sullivan Award with the intent to recognize amateur contributions and achievements from non-professional athletes across the country. The AAU Sullivan Award is presented to the athlete who has demonstrated the most athletic success, as well as leadership, character and sportsmanship in the past year.
World renowned golfer Robert “Bobby” Jones received the inaugural award in 1930 and swimmer Anne Curtis became the first female to accept the award in 1944. Other notable athletes to win the award include famed Olympians Carl Lewis (1981), Jackie Joyner-Kersee (1986), Michael Phelps (2003) and Shawn Johnson (2008), former UCLA basketball star Bill Walton (1973) and University of Tennessee quarterback Peyton Manning (1997).