Former Penn State Wrestler Nick Lee Continuing Dominance With ‘Wakinyan’ Clothing Brand

After taking home the 2022 NCAA Wrestling National Championship at 141 pounds, Nick Lee graduated from Penn State not knowing what was next.

Flash forward to December of 2022, and Lee found himself on the brink of creating his own company.

Most athletes find themselves partnering with established brands following graduation. In the case of wrestling, this usually comes as RUDIS or ScrapLife, but Lee wanted to start from the ground up.

“I have spent my entire life in athletic or athleisure apparel, so I know a little bit about it,” Lee said.

Alas, Wakinyan was born.

Lee describes himself as quite the history buff, so the name of the company came during a late-night Wikipedia scroll.

“I came across it in reading, and it’s a Native American word,” Lee said. “It means ‘thunderbird’ or ‘thunder spirit,’ and it’s kind of a powerful mythological being that is associated with thunderstorms and the West.”

The imagery is to represent how everyone has their inner power — you just need to let it shine, and the clothes might be that first step.

Currently, the company has around 10 products, covering both men’s and women’s styles.

Aside from the basic line of products that are now available, including shirts, hoodies, and more, Lee is aiming to add items such as sports bras for women and joggers for men.

Lee also talked with a number of female athletes that he is in contact with to gauge what they like and don’t like about their favorite clothing items to give his brand the best products possible.

“My goal, generally, is that I just want to provide really high-quality products for people that they love,” Lee said. “Hopefully, it’s people’s new favorite pair of leggings or new favorite t-shirt.”

Fellow Penn State wrestlers such as Max Dean, Greg Kerkvliet, and Terrell Barraclough have been supporting their friend and teammate by promoting the products on social media and acting as models for the brand.

“That’s one of the benefits of being part of a very good community at Penn State and Penn State wrestling,” Lee said. “People will help you out, and most of the time it will be for nothing.”

While these men are the foundation for marketing, the hope is also to open up new name, image, and likeness opportunities for future athletes as well.

“NIL is fancy for ‘will you wear our product and post it?’” Lee said.

But, Lee wants the company to be for everyone, not just collegiate athletes.

“Maybe your next step isn’t to be a national champion in a sport,” Lee said. “Maybe it’s to run two miles instead of one in your daily workout.”

Even with the constant expansion of clothing brands and other athletes making brands of their own, Lee doesn’t concern himself with what else is being created.

“Obviously, everyone is going to continue to buy Nike and Under Armour and those big companies, but I think there is something to supporting small companies, especially when it is Penn State alumni,” Lee said.

Lee had no background in starting up a company and has had to learn that it isn’t always a glamorous process.

But as many other alumni have shown, tapping into your Penn State network and having constant determination can open up endless opportunities.

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About the Author

Mara McKeon

Mara is a senior staff writer majoring in English and public relations. She loves all things sports and anything that has peanut butter. You can usually find her obsessing over country music or Penn State wrestling and counting down the days until she gets to see Luke Combs in Beaver Stadium. Feel free to reach her on Twitter @MckeonMara, and for more formal affairs, her email is [email protected].

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