IOWA CITY, Iowa — There were no tears from Brandon Sorensen as he stepped off the mat one final time at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
The 149-pound senior walked to the mat’s center and received a standing ovation after No. 7-ranked Iowa’s 33-2 domination of No. 17 Northwestern on Sunday. Then Sorensen stepped off and was reserved, almost nonchalant, in chilly Iowa City.
“It’s not like this is the end all right now,” Sorensen said. “We’ve got bigger things coming in March. That’s my goal. It’s always fun to come out here and perform in front of these fans. That was awesome one last time. We’ve got bigger things ahead of us.”
Yes, Sorensen does have bigger matches ahead of him. But he deserves the spotlight for a few minutes, no matter how much he tries to avoid it. His final home match at Carver showed perseverance, guts and tenacity — everything he has displayed over his four years with the Hawkeyes.
Sorensen, who is ranked No. 2 at 149 pounds, improved to 18-0 this season with a 5-4 overtime victory against Northwestern’s No. 5-ranked Ryan Deakin (25-4). It was a back-and-forth match where Sorensen thwarted several attacks from Deakin, then needed an escape with 12 seconds left to send the match into overtime.
“The next score,” Sorensen said of his mindset with 15 seconds left. “You’ve got to get out. You’ve got to get out. I knew I could get out. Just explode off the bottom.”
Then the match ended somewhat controversially. In sudden victory, Deakin yanked on Sorensen’s headgear, which was called by referee Michael Chase. The incident was reviewed and the violation remained in place, which gave Sorensen a 5-4 win.
Iowa coach Tom Brands thought Sorensen was too reactive in the match and was plenty upset with Deakin’s tug on his wrestler. It wasn’t how Sorensen wanted to win, but it’s a blip on his career.
Sorensen plans to use the match to pivot toward the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments next month, where he’ll likely see Deakin at least one more time.
“What it’s telling me [is] it’s time to go,” Sorensen said. “We’re here coming towards the end of the season and the last home dual, let’s get the job done. Let’s roll them fast. It’s here. Let’s do it.”
Before everybody glosses over Sorensen’s final match at Carver and just looks ahead to March like he will, his career is worthy of some reflection. He’s a three-time All-American and barring a catastrophe, he’ll be the Hawkeyes’ 19th four-time All-American. He finished third last year, second in 2016 and fourth in 2015. If he places in the top four again, he’ll become only the 10th Iowa wrestler to do it.
Sorensen boasts a 118-13 overall record and was 35-3 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. But there’s more to Sorensen than just his mat prowess. He owns numerous academic honors, including Academic All-Big Ten and earned a spot on the NWCA All-Academic team. He keeps a low profile and his coaches appreciate him.
“He is what we want our guys to be,” Brands said. “He puts his head down and goes to work every day. There’s zero — zero — distraction with him. When I say zero, I mean zero. You don’t worry about him, what he’s doing in the offseason. There’s a break, you know he’s still training. He’s just a solid, solid individual.”
Sorensen also has left an impression upon his teammates.
“I’ve only had a year with him, but he’s literally the model of what you want to be in this program,” Iowa freshman Spencer Lee said. “If you want to be successful in this program, just follow what Brandon Sorensen does. It almost makes me emotional because he’s such a great leader. The season’s not over, but last dual means a lot and we’re a family. It probably means a lot to him, too.
“He’s very consistent, he works hard. Even if there’s a bad practice, he doesn’t care; he just moves forward. He’s always working hard, he’s positive, he’s uplifting, he’s a great leader and he’s going to do great things in life.”
Sorensen may never win a national title considering Penn State’s Zain Retherford, the two-time defending national champion, remains in his path. But Sorensen’s contributions to Iowa wrestling are worth far more than a passing shrug on his senior day, no matter how uncomfortable he feels with the attention.