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By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — After almost five years and 159 matches (28 competing unattached as a true freshman), University of Iowa senior Brandon Sorensen knows the end of his collegiate wrestling career is near.
But his fondest memories might be yet to come.
Sorensen, Iowa’s 149-pounder who is ranked No. 2 in the country, concluded his 38-match career inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena with a 5-4 overtime victory against Northwestern’s fifth-ranked Ryan Deakin on Sunday in front of 7,551. The margin of victory was a technical violation against Deakin, who grabbed Sorensen’s headgear during a flurry in overtime.
“I got the job done, it’s not the way I wanted to do it, but I got it done in my last home meet,” said Sorensen, who improved to 118-13.
No. 7 Iowa won nine of 10 matches and easily took the dual, 33-2, over No. 17 Northwestern. When his morning was over (the dual began at 10 a.m.), Sorensen reflected on his most memorable matches in Iowa City.
“The first one with (Iowa State’s Gabe) Moreno and then the (Jason) Tsirtis one, even throughout this year with Oklahoma State, getting the tech fall,” Sorensen said. “A lot of them stick out; obviously Kinnick. Kinnick comes to mind with a huge amount of fans.”
Sorensen’s first time on Mediacom Mat for a dual against Division I competition was a 7-6 win over Moreno on Nov. 29, 2014. Nearly two months later, he knocked off top-ranked Jason Tsirtis of Northwestern, 3-2, in overtime. When it comes to recent memory, Sorensen was near his best Jan. 14, 2018, when he won by 23-8 technical fall over Boo Lewallen of Oklahoma State.
And who can forget the Grapple on the Gridiron inside Kinnick Stadium on Nov. 14, 2015? Sorensen won a 6-1 decision over the Cowboys’ Anthony Collica in front of 42,287 fans.
“It flies by,” Sorensen said of the last five years. “It has been awesome following the fans and the excitement — it makes it fun to come out and perform for these guys.”
Then his attention turned to Deakin, a redshirt freshman who is a two-time Fargo Junior Greco All-American. Sorensen is 2-0 against Deakin; their first meeting was at the 2016 Midlands Championships and Sorensen won by 12-4 major decision.
Sorensen improved to 18-0 on the season with Sunday’s victory (and 35-3 in Carver-Hawkeye Arena); Deakin fell to 24-5.
“I have to be ready and I have to move my feet: quick go-behinds and not giving up an easy takedown,” Sorensen said.
Iowa head coach Tom Brands wants Sorensen to finish his career by doing what he does best…and more of it.
“You see what happens when we do our stutter-step and go, we’re getting in deep,” Brands said. “We got in deep twice and finished once.”
All eyes of the wrestling world will be focused on University Park, Pennsylvania, on Saturday. Not only do the Hawkeyes tangle with undefeated and top-ranked Penn State, but the 149-pound match will pit the top two competitors in the country.
Penn State’s Zain Retherford, the reigning Hodge Trophy winner, has won two national titles and 80 straight matches. He is 4-0 against Sorensen, including a 9-8 overtime decision on Jan. 20, 2017, in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
“It is awesome, but it’s not an end-all,” Sorensen said. “We have bigger things ahead of us: Big Tens and nationals. That is the goal and it has always been the goal. It is a reminder that it is coming quick and you have to get the job done.”