The legend of Brock Lesnar is such that all the old crazy shit he’s done in sports gets whitewashed by all the new crazy shit he’s accomplished. For instance: On a recent episode of Stone Cold Steve Austin’s podcast, Lesnar mentioned the forgotten stat that as a wrestler at the University of Minnesota from 1999–2000, he lost only three matches.
It was hard to figure what was more impossible — that Lesnar had lost at all, or that three other human beings were capable of beating him in any competition involving feats of strength. The dude was the youngest WWE Champion ever, a UFC Champion despite a nasty bout of diverticulitis and nearly a member of the Minnesota Vikings, even though he hadn’t played football since high school. “Who are the psychopaths that beat Brock Lesnar in amateur wrestling?” a commenter wondered on the pro wrestling subreddit. “You’d think they’d be screaming it from the rooftops every single day.”
On the latest episode of the MEL Stories podcast, we tracked one of them down — Wes Hand, the University of Iowa heavyweight who gave Lesnar his only loss during his senior year in 2000. The mild-mannered Iowa medical supply salesman tells us about the WWE-level shit-talking that accompanied his and Lesnar’s two-year collegiate feud and how his later loss to Lesnar in the NCAA Finals actually sticks with him more than his win. These days, he reveals, he and Lesnar are kind of text buddies.
Read an edited excerpt from the interview below or listen to the full recording at the SoundCloud embed above.
The Thrill of Victory
“The match I won started pretty physical. Brock’s headgear even came off somewhere in the first minute. I had it in my hand, and he went to reach for it. I remember thinking that there’s no way I can just hand this headgear over to him. So I tossed it off to the side. Just a little toss, two or three feet off to the side of the mat. I think it rattled him because he looked right up at me; there was a certain look he gave me—I could tell that I caught him by surprise. Thirty or forty seconds later, he shot in, and I hit what’s called a pancake and threw him right to his back. It was the first time I’d ever gotten him down.
“It helped give me a big lead. I knew that meant he was going to have to come to me, and that it was going to be hard for him to blast me now. Obviously you want to dominate the match—but this is a guy who blasted me into the rafters of the arena the year before. So I wasn’t about to put myself out there when I had a lead like that. I was just going to hold the center of the mat and if he going to beat me, he was going to have to earn it.
“And he couldn’t. I ended up winning by three or four points. It was in his arena, too. I was so happy to win up there in Minnesota. The crowd went silent—except for the Hawkeye fans.”
…and the Agony of Defeat
“I think I beat him worse in the national championship match, which took place not long after the match that I won. The score doesn’t show that—he beat me in overtime by a single point. But anybody who watches that match would see it. Brock himself would probably see it. I had him on the ropes at least six times. Just on the edge. Situations where 99 times out of 100, I would have scored. But for one reason or another — maybe he was too athletic, maybe I wasn’t prepared enough—I wasn’t able to put him down all the way. I’ve thought about that so many times over the last 16 years.
“In fact, it’s totally informed how I’ve lived my life ever since. I’m in medical device sales now; I provide implants for surgeons when they go in to operate on a patient. That surgeon relies on me to have everything ready. So I make absolutely sure that our stuff works and that it’s ready to go—and that there’s a Plan A, Plan B and Plan C. Because if it’s not, we put a patient at risk. All that attention to detail and preparation comes from losing to Brock in the championship match.”
Breaking Bread Instead of Skulls
“I saw Brock a few years after we had competed for the last time. We had never spoken during competition. I was down in New Orleans at a wrestling event, and he happened to be there, too. He was just starting his WWE career. Somehow, we ended up in the same facility together. He asked me what I was doing later that night, and he invited me to come to dinner with him. We had a great time. He was making a lot more money than I was at the time so he offered to pick up the bill. It was a cool deal.
“I’ve had a few conversations with him over the years now. We have a little bit of history that’s similar — he grew up on a farm; I grew up on a farm. And farmers like to sit there and talk. For a while, there was some consistent communication. He talked about me coming up to help him train for one of his MMA fights. For one reason or another, it didn’t happen. I think it was more me than him. I had just started a new career, and it just wasn’t going to work out.
“If we were in the same place, though, I’m sure we’d sit down and talk for hours. He’s a nice guy. I don’t have a single bad thing to say about him at all.”
Hear the rest of Hand’s story below.
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