NCAA wrestling championships: One step remains for Sorensen

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CLEVELAND, Ohio — Brandon Sorensen has faced 11 of the 33 qualifiers at 149 pounds for this week’s NCAA Division I wrestling championships at Quicken Loans Arena.

Sorensen is 17-0 against 10 of those opponents.

The 11th is a different story. Penn State’s Zain Retherford, a two-time defending national champion, is the one obstacle Sorensen hasn’t been able to overcome. Retherford beat Sorensen for the sixth time two weeks ago, 2-0, in the Big Ten championships.

Retherford and Sorensen are seeded one and two, and if everything goes as expected will face off for the second time in an NCAA final on Saturday. 

Iowa coach Tom Brands considers Sorensen one of Iowa’s all-time best, and with another podium finish this week Sorensen would be just the 20th Hawkeye to become a four-time All-American.

«He felt like he left something undone in Michigan and that is a good thing,» Brands said of that 2-0 loss at the Big Ten tourney. «Is there extra urgency? I don’t think that he’s to the point where it’s panic or urgency to the point where he is pressing or that’s all he’s consumed with it.»

Sorensen, the Cedar Falls native who won four state titles at Denver-Tripoli, has a career record of 121-15. He has never got caught up in the fact he hasn’t beaten Retherford, or at least he doesn’t let on that it is hanging over his head.

He is well aware that this is his last NCAA championship.

«The final time just going in not holding anything back,» Sorensen said. «Letting it fly, giving it everything I’ve got and going out there and letting it fly.»

Sorensen has finished fourth, second and third at the NCAA championships and says those experiences of three-day tournaments and three-day weigh-ins are important experiences for him and his teammates.

Iowa freshman Spencer Lee, the third seed at 125, is competing in his first NCAA championship, and he plans to follow Sorensen’s lead.

«He’s taught you consistency is key,» Lee said. «He’s super consistent. He does everything right and that’s how everyone should be. They should strive to train and live the lifestyle of Brandon Sorensen.»

While Sorensen has never been much for talking about himself and his legacy, Brands had no trouble Monday delving into it or the 0-6 record Iowa’s lone senior NCAA qualifier has against Retherford.

«We’ve talked about Brandon Sorensen’s legacy here,» Brands said. «It’s much more than his winning ways. It goes way deeper than that and he wants his legacy to be, maybe from his perspective, more meaningful than just these numbers behind his name.

«(I) put him on par with the best and he knows he probably needs to stand on that top stand. That’s not me saying it to put more pressure on him. You have to be careful sometimes, but I know what he is after.

«You said chasing,» Brands replied to a reporter. «I don’t know if that is the right description. I think it’s more about Brandon Sorensen, knowing what he is capable of doing, going out and you know what, go do it.»

Sorensen, for his part, says nothing about his approach changes as he nears the final three days of his collegiate career.

«The biggest thing I’ve learned is go out there and fight,» Sorensen said. «Toward the end of the year, some guys may let up a little bit. You just go out there and out-fight them.»

Sorensen opens against Jared Prince of Navy in his first match Thursday. 

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