Two showcase bouts ahead for Iowa wrestlers, plus a score to settle

Chad Leistikow

When the No. 1-ranked Iowa wrestling team hosts Northwestern in a 7 p.m. dual Friday, there shouldn't be much team-score drama.

But two showcase matchups are expected to take place, along with a chance for Hawkeye revenge at another weight.

Hawkeye coach Tom Brands pretty much bullet-pointed the highlights in one answer earlier this week.

"We'll see a national champion at 149. We'll see a guy that we owe at 165," Brands said. "We'll see at heavyweight, two titans wrestling."

The matchup at 149 pounds, in particular, should be worth the price of admission. Iowa redshirt freshman Brandon Sorensen has risen to a No. 4 national ranking after beginning the year with a Luther Open loss to his teammate, Brody Grothus.

But with Grothus slowed by an ankle injury, Sorensen has taken hold of the spot at 149 and defeated two top-five wrestlers, including then-No. 2 Josh Kindig of Oklahoma State. Friday, he'll get a shot at defending national champion Jason Tsirtsis of Northwestern.

Top-ranked Tsirtsis is 24-0 this season and has won 40 straight matches. He beat Grothus in the Iowa dual last year, 13-3. He'll meet fast-paced Sorensen (23-2) for the first time.

"I've got our guy, for sure," said Brent Metcalf, a former two-time national champion for Iowa at 149 and a training partner of Sorensen's as a member of the Hawkeye Wrestling Club. "(Tsirtsis) is a very stingy wrestler, a smart wrestler. But he's explosive as well. He can score on you. It's going to take a pace where you get to him, you get to him, then you put him down."

Those attending or watching on BTN Plus need to stay tuned for the heavyweight bout, where one of Iowa's three undefeated wrestlers — 18-0 and top-ranked Bobby Telford — gets a rematch with former No. 1 Mike McMullan. Both wrestlers are seniors after being the top two heavyweights in the country in their class out of high school.

Telford and fifth-ranked McMullan (17-2) have split six career collegiate meetings, with Telford earning a 4-2 decision with a late takedown at the Midlands Championships Dec. 30 in Evanston, Ill.

Brands referenced a score to settle at 165. Nick Moore is expected to return to the lineup for Iowa against No. 6 Pierce Harger. Moore, ranked 12th, had won all three career meetings vs. Harger until falling 8-5 at Midlands.

A reason hasn't been given why Moore hasn't wrestled since Jan. 4, but Brands said Tuesday of Moore, "We've seen progress. We've seen healing. I feel good. If he feels good, I feel good."