Iowa Hawkeyes

Iowa wrestling turns attention to NCAA tournament

Hawkeyes place 4th, advance 9 to national meet

Iowa's Brandon Sorensen wrestles Michigan's Ben Lamantia during a dual meet earlier this season. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Iowa's Brandon Sorensen wrestles Michigan's Ben Lamantia during a dual meet earlier this season. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

EAST LANSING, Mich. — The attention will now turn to the next meet of the season.

It also happens to be the biggest and final event.

Third-ranked Iowa will regroup after a fourth-place finish at the Big Ten Wrestling Championships Sunday at Michigan State’s Breslin Center. Senior Brandon Sorensen reached the conference finals, leading the way for the Hawkeyes’ nine qualifiers for the NCAA Championships on March 15-17 in Cleveland.

“It’s a qualifier and we have work to do, regardless of where we ended up in each weight class,” Iowa Coach Tom Brands said. “There’s a lot of work to do. I think we fell off.

“Obviously, our seeds didn’t hold in a lot of places. … We’ve got to go forward. We’ve got another tournament.”

Sorensen faced a familiar foe in the finals, taking on top-ranked and defending NCAA champion Zain Retherford at 149. Retherford (26-0) continued to have Sorensen’s number, recording a 2-0 victory for the title.

Retherford’s second-period rideout was the difference, leading to a point for riding time that preceded a third-period escape.

“If I’m going down, I’ve got to get out,” Sorensen said. “That is something I have to think about coming for nationals match. Maybe we don’t go down. We’ll see how the match is going.”

Sorensen nearly earned a takedown in the third that could have forced overtime, but Retherford was able to face him and avoid the points. Sorensen said the opportunity was created by a flurry of action, which he will have to produce for an entire seven-minute match to clear the hurdle with Retherford, who was named the Big Ten’s Wrestler of the Year.


“It’s going to hurt,” Sorensen said. “It’s going to be breathtaking. It’s not going to feel good. That’s what it is going to take.”

Sorensen (22-1) finishes as a three-time Big Ten finalist and will attempt to become a four-time All-American. He will head back to work and the next week-and-a-half will be used as preparation for one last run at a national title.

“Getting ready mentally,” Sorensen said. “Maybe working a little bit on bottom, some quick finishes, short goes, high pace. Just focusing on that because it’s only a seven-minute match. It goes by quick.”

Spencer Lee (17-2) stormed back through two consolation matches Sunday, placing third. He whipped Northwestern’s ninth-ranked Sebastian Rivera, 12-0, in the consolation semifinals. Lee posted a 16-0 technical fall over Purdue’s Luke Welch in the placing match.

“Coach is always talking about get the next best thing,” said Lee, the Big Ten Freshman of the Year. “That was the job and what I set out to do.”

Lee will turn his attention to Cleveland immediately. The emphasis will be on constant production, like his three victories here.

“I just have to keep scoring points,” Lee said. “Ultimately, lost one match in the semis and got me through the loser’s bracket.”

Heavyweight Sam Stoll earned his second national title berth, matching his seed and placing fourth. It will be his first trip since his freshman year, missing last year’s postseason because of injury.


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Vince Turk was a highlight for the Hawkeyes. The redshirt sophomore won a wrestle-off to compete in the postseason and entered the tournament unseeded. He earned a fifth-place finish and an automatic berth to the NCAA tournament.

Turk capped his tournament with a 4-1 decision over Wisconsin’s Eli Stickley. The result wasn’t a chance to learn about himself but more an opportunity to prove what Turk, his coaches and family know to be true.

“Everyone knows the potential I have,” Turk said. “I’ve just got to go out there and show it and use it.”

Turk (13-8) won’t have to wait for at-large bids, earning one of the conference’s automatic bids. He will look to build on this as he readies for the NCAA meet.

“Confidence is definitely up,” Turk said. “Just keep pushing the pace, and even though I didn’t get what I wanted, I’ve got to move forward and go get the ready for nationals.”

Like Turk, Gunther had to top a teammate to wrestle in the postseason. He won a wrestle-off with Kaleb Young. Gunther (16-7) earned his second straight NCAA berth with a sixth-place finish at 174.

The next two weeks will be crucial as the Hawkeyes look to improve this weekend’s performance.

“We need to make some adjustments in individuals’ minds,” Brands said. “We have to have guys fresh in their mind. If something goes bad, we have to be able to handle that a little better over a two-day, three-day period.”


Iowa finished with 90 1/2 points. Ohio State crowned four champions, including heavyweight and Olympic champion Kyle Snyder, who scored a takedown in sudden victory-2 for a 4-2 decision over Michigan’s Adam Coon. The Buckeyes scored 164 1/2 points for the team title, outlasting Penn State by 16 1/2. The Nittany Lions had three champions. The Wolverines were third with 118.

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