More than 33 minutes of wrestling time melted away as Brandon Sorensen remained stuck in a vexing predicament against Northwestern’s Jason Tsirtsis.
The Iowa All-American wanted to break loose from the offensive abyss he seemingly slipped into each time he locked up with the 2014 NCAA champion. But in matches where points became precious, Sorensen didn’t want to make a mistake born from foolish over-aggressiveness, either.
But finally, in the eighth minute of their fourth collegiate clash, Tsirtsis briefly left a crack in his defense and Sorensen swooped in on the Northwestern junior’s right leg. In one attack, the second-ranked Iowa sophomore secured a 3-1 overtime victory, the 149-pound title at the Midlands Championships and the elusive first takedown of his career against Tsirtsis.
It was an ego-boosting development for Sorensen, one that Iowa coach Tom Brands described in sonic terms this week as the Hawkeyes prepped for Sunday’s rematch with Tsirtsis during a dual at Northwestern.
“It was kaboom,” Brands said. “Now we’ve got to get kaboom, kaboom, kaboom, kaboom going. It doesn’t mean every kaboom is going to equal points, but the more kabooms you can put in there, the more you’re going to have a chance to score and your percentages go up.
“If you’re 1-for-1, basically, or maybe 1-for-2 or 3 if you count all the half-shots, then what would happen if you were, say, taking 12 or 15 attempts? All of a sudden, you start getting to a guy with five, six, seven, eight successful ventures with 15 attempts and now it’s a lopsided score. I’ve seen a lot of guys beat really good opponents just because they stayed on them, and matches that were close in the past were blown open because of that pressure and letting it go.”
Sorensen-Tsirtsis bouts have taken on a heavyweight feel with offensive attacks taking a backseat to hand-fighting, stingy positioning and strategic mat wrestling. They enter Sunday’s dual in a stalemate.
The count after four career meets: Sorensen 8, Tsirtsis 8. Both wrestlers own two wins in the series, and neither has registered a takedown in 28 minutes of regulation wrestling.
Sorensen won the first meeting last January, 3-2, by riding Tsirtsis out in the second tiebreak period.
Tsirtsis evened the series with a 2-1 win in the Big Ten finals, notching the decisive point by virtue of a riding-time advantage. He topped Sorensen for third place at the NCAA Championships, scoring on a duck-under in overtime to win a 3-1 decision.
Sorensen struck back with the Dec. 30 win on Tsirtsis’ home turf in the Midlands finals.
“It builds your confidence,” Sorensen said. “I know I can take him down now. I’ve always known that I could, but I got it (last) time. But let’s add more takedowns.
“Let’s not go into overtime, let’s widen the gap and have no question.”
Sorensen’s beefed-up offensive arsenal has helped him pile up a 15-0 record with bonus points in 10 victories. The message he’s hearing from Brands is straightforward: Points can come earlier and more frequently against Tsirtsis, too.
“The thing about Tsirtsis is, he comes from wrestling stock and they’re telling him the same thing,” said Brands, who coached Tsirtsis’ older brother, Alex, an All-American at Iowa. “You’ve got to let it fly and bring everything with you. I don’t think it was a case of throw everything at him and the kitchen sink.
“It’s more let happen what needs to happen and what needed to happen was let my best wrestling go forward. And that’s what happened (in the last match). It’s really that simple to me. It’s not coaching, it’s not anything other than a mentality where: Do I want this to go down to the past and flip a coin or am I going to make something happen?”