Leistikow: In appreciation of the quiet domination by Iowa's Brandon Sorensen
IOWA CITY, Ia. — Unbeaten Iowa 149-pounder Brandon Sorensen sounded more like a coach than a wrestler following Sunday afternoon’s dual before 13,485 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Of unranked Mitch Bowman’s stirring win at 184 pounds that basically clinched Iowa’s 20-12 dual win against Oklahoma State?
“I think it was good," he said, but noted: "I thought it could’ve been ... a wider gap there.”
Of his giving up a rare takedown against Oklahoma State’s Boo Lewallen, then responding with a 23-8 win by technical fall?
“You can’t let it faze you,” Sorensen said, before shifting the narrative to a second-ranked teammate’s 6-0 loss at 197 pounds. “I’m looking at a guy like Cash Wilcke, where he’s getting scored on and it’s fazing him. He’s thinking about it. Just worry about getting the next score.”
It’s easy for Hawkeye fans to think about the future and the latest shiny wrestling-room talent — be it Spencer Lee or Alex Marinelli or Jacob Warner or even Pat Downey, whose anticipated Hawkeye debut as a graduate transfer has to wait at least another week.
But Sunday was a reminder of what Sorensen means to this Iowa team, beyond being the old guy in the room.
At 114-13 in his career, Sorensen has 66 more wins than the next-closest teammate (Michael Kemerer has 48).
He gets pigeon-holed as a methodical, grind-it-out wrestler — when in fact he’s been anything but over the course of his four years.
Sixty-three of his victories — more than half — have come by major decision, technical fall or pin, including on Sunday making the nation’s No. 14-ranked wrestler look helpless.
Sorensen unleashed a five-takedown, 12-point third period to give Iowa five key team points in a dual between programs fighting for the same national turf as first runner-up to mighty Penn State and Ohio State.
“Towards the end of the second, third, you could just feel the guy fading,” Sorensen said. “He didn’t want to be there. And I had to make him not want to be there.”
Sorensen is now 14-0 this season, with 10 wins coming with bonus points.
Barring injury, he’ll be Iowa's next four-time all-American.
In Years 1-3, Sorensen has finished fourth, second and third at the NCAA Championships.
First place has eluded him. And it’s going to be a tough task again, with 2017 Hodge Trophy winner Zain Retherford of Penn State expected to roll to his third straight title.
But with an aggressive style he showed Sunday, Sorensen knows he can give himself a chance.
“When I’m attacking, that’s when I’m best,” Sorensen said. “It’s when my feet and hands are moving together, when I’m feeling good, that’s when I think I can beat anyone in the nation. That’s what’s got to happen.”
Maybe most importantly for the Iowa program: Sorensen's younger teammates are learning from him.
Lee, the freshman phenom at 125, racked up eight first-period points against sixth-ranked Nick Piccininni before hanging on for a 10-5 win.
He’s 2-0 in what is expected to be a long, fruitful career here.
But Lee doesn’t want to ride out the clock for wins. He wants to dominate from start to finish.
Like Sorensen did Sunday.
“He just told me it’s going to get better," Lee said of Sorensen. "(That) you’ve got to keep listening to the coaches. They know what they’re doing. They know what they’re talking about.
"He had an awesome performance tonight. He just kept that pressure, kept that pace, moving his hands and his feet. That’s something I’ve got to do."
This was a good dual win for the Hawkeyes, one that the program and thunderous fans needed.
The Sorensen performance was duly noted by head coach Tom Brands. The five team points it generated served as Iowa's 17-12 margin entering heavyweight.
Sam Stoll won in sudden victory, sending the "Blackout" crowd home happy.
Sorensen helped get them there.
“Winning that heavyweight match, we didn’t need the bonus points," Brands said. "But you still need bonus points to widen the gap and put the fear of God in your opponents.”
Like Sorensen did Sunday.
Hawkeyes columnist Chad Leistikow has covered sports for 23 years with The Des Moines Register, USA TODAY and Iowa City Press-Citizen. Follow @ChadLeistikow on Twitter.