Sorensen ready for next test


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Brandon Sorensen pounded his fist on the table. He did it for emphasis, perhaps because he is tired of talking about being Iowa’s latest 149 pounder to blossom and shoot up the national rankings.

It was on Jan. 4, after he took out then-fifth-ranked Hunter Stieber of Ohio State, 9-7. It was a comeback victory, buoyed by three third-period takedowns. After the dual, Sorensen was asked about possible competition for the spot.

“There can always be competition there,” he said. “But I have to keep moving forward, and winning, and” — here, his fist hits the table — “make sure it’s mine.”

In the time since that win, and even before, Sorensen has made it very clear he can be the guy at 149 pounds for the top-ranked Hawkeyes. His ranking reflects that drive; Flowrestling has him as the fifth-best at his weight, behind four returning All-Americans.

As if that matters. Of those four, he beat one in Oklahoma State’s Josh Kindig, last season’s NCAA runner up at 149. It was a resounding 6-1 victory, complete with two late takedowns and a few more pushouts.

Sorensen will get a crack at Northwestern’s Jason Tsirtsis, the defending NCAA champion, when the 10th-ranked Wildcats invade Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The dual is set to start at 7 p.m. today.

This, of course, is a story we’ve heard before. Last year, Brody Grothus emerged during the winter break and appeared primed to not only take Iowa’s 149-pound spot but do some damage with it.

Grothus finished fourth at last season’s Midlands Championships and beat both Tsirtsis and Edinboro’s David Habat, another 2014 All-American, in the process. In January, Grothus added a win over then-third-ranked Kindig, then won a wild 17-14 overtime bout over Michigan’s Eric Grajales, yet another All-American.

Once March hit, though, Grothus couldn’t deliver the same results, combining for a 2-4 record between the Big Ten and NCAA Championships. He won each of his first-round matches, then proceeded to lose his next two to get bounced from each tournament.

Seeing how Grothus ended his 2013-14 campaign, it does raise the question: What gives the coaches confidence that Sorensen can avoid that same tumble?

“Not too long ago, there was a guy named Brent Metcalf,” Iowa head coach Tom Brands said. “And they take a shine to each other because they’re the same weight, and Sorensen’s looking up to his mentor.

“… It’s natural when you have two guys at the same weight that are working out. It’s not like Sorensen takes a back seat, even though there’s days where, you know, Metcalf can hand it to him, but he doesn’t put his head down. That’s why he keeps getting better, because of his approach every day.”

It’s apparent that Metcalf’s style is wearing off on Sorensen by the way he holds his hands low to the mat, continuously stalks his opponent, and seemingly grows stronger as the match progresses. In his last four matches, Sorensen has outscored his opponents a combined 22-6 in the third period.

That endurance, according to many, will bode well for Sorensen — against Tsirtsis and the rest of the country.

“He forces himself on his opponents, throughout the duration of the match,” said Mark Ironside, the Iowa wrestling color guy for Learfield Sports. “He’s wearing that guy down, not just physically but also mentally, bit by bit by bit, almost like chopping a tree down, throughout the match. …

“If you were going to talk about a wrestler out of the state of Iowa who just really excels on work ethic, that’s Brandon Sorensen. This guy is for real.”

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