The freshman is ranked No. 4 nationally at 149 pounds. Chad Leistikow/The Register
IOWA CITY, Ia. – The most recent wrestling all-America status at 149 pounds for Iowa was achieved when Brent Metcalf won the 2010 NCAA championship.
Regularly, the world-class wrestler looks eye-to-eye with a redshirt freshman that could end that weight-class drought of four-plus years.
For a guy that was battling for a starting lineup up until two weeks ago, Brandon Sorensen has not only shot himself into being the Hawkeyes' guy at 149 but into the national conversation.
"He's definitely capable of being an NCAA champion and beyond," Metcalf said. "And by beyond, I mean multiple (titles)."
Sorensen's 22-2 record and rise to No. 4 in the national rankings may have seemed to come out of nowhere, but it's no surprise to those in the Iowa wrestling room.
Brent Metcalf won NCAA championships at Iowa in 2008 and 2010 and is part of the Hawkeye Wrestling Club. Chad Leistikow/The Register
"We know what's under the hood there. Now we've got to keep it going," Iowa ninth-year coach Tom Brands said. "… It's not like this is something that all of a sudden he's had success."
Sorensen delivers an aggressive style like Metcalf's. A three-time world team participant and member of the Hawkeye Wrestling Club, Metcalf battles Sorensen regularly during practices.
"That helps a lot, obviously. I started out getting my butt kicked," said Sorensen, who came here after winning four Iowa state championships at Denver-Tripoli High School. "I still do on some days. Great training partner. He's always pushing you and making you better."
Can he take down Metcalf?
"Yeah, I can anyone down," Sorensen said. "Just got to do it multiple times and come out on top."
Sorensen broke onto the scene at last year's Midlands Championships, wrestling unattached to a third-place finish. But Brands elected to redshirt him after reading comments in a Midlands article in which Sorensen indicated self-doubt.
Confidence is brimming for Sorensen now. Even though teammate Brody Grothus beat him in this year's only sanctioned head-to-head battle at the Luther Open, 3-2, Sorensen became the starter after Grothus was hurt at this year's Midlands.
Sorensen is fresh off two impressive wins – 9-7 over then-No. 5 Hunter Stieber of Ohio State and a dominating 6-1 win over then-No. 2 Josh Kindig of Oklahoma State.
Recently, Brands urged his team to be more aggressive – to widen the scores in matches and not be satisfied with hanging on for a 2-1 win.
That's never been a problem for Sorensen, who has wins of 18-2, 20-5, 19-7 and 18-5 on his ledger.
"That's really what you're striving for," Sorensen said. "Pushing the pace, getting points on the board and broadening the score so they have no hope left."
Counting 13 straight unattached wins to end last season, Sorensen (22-2) has won 35 of his last 37 matches. On Friday, he'll return to Carver-Hawkeye Arena in a 7 p.m. dual against Illinois. On Jan. 23, Iowa welcomes Northwestern – and No. 1-at-149 (and defending NCAA champion) Jason Tsirtsis.
That'll be a good barometer to see if Sorensen's attacking style can overcome what is a 149-pound weight class without a dominant star.
"You look at that weight class this year, it's a lot of tight matches," Metcalf said. "To me, that means that guys are eking it out. There's not anybody who is the clear-cut favorite. Tsirtsis is probably the guy. With that sort of wrestling that he's displaying, that's how you crack those guys."
Sorensen isn't looking ahead to Tsirtsis. He's thinking bigger.
"My goal is to win it," Sorensen said, "it" being the NCAA Championships March 19-21 in St. Louis, Mo. "I don't want anything short of that. I believe I can."