IOWA CITY — Iowa Coach Tom Brands liked what he saw in Brandon Sorensen.
He was so positive about Denver-Tripoli’s four-time state champion that he made maximum effort into bringing him into the Hawkeye program.
The amount of interest Brands had in Sorensen was met with some surprise by the 149-pounder’s family, according to Brands. The family’s blue-and-gold pet macaw, named Chewy, had a different reaction to Brands.
“This parrot was a mean son of a gun,” Brands said. “It was one of those things, this parrot, if he doesn’t like you he’s going to peck the living dog out of you, so I stayed away from the parrot. I think that humanized me a little bit with the family where this Brands guy wasn’t going to take on this parrot.”
Sorensen squeezed out a short laugh when he recalled the visit. He said he probably didn’t like his future coach too much.
“It’s a pretty big one ... it chews everything up,” Sorensen said of the bird. “If it likes you, it likes you, but if not it can be a mean bird.
“I think we put him away.”
After the visit, everyone was on the same page. Well, except for Chewy. Despite the pet’s peeve, Brands landed a steady performer that has been as successful as he has been reliable.
Sorensen will take the mat in a Hawkeye singlet for the last time in Carver-Hawkeye Arena this weekend. The seventh-ranked Hawkeyes host Minnesota on Friday, beginning at 8 p.m., before Northwestern comes in for Senior Day on Sunday.
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“It’s not focusing too much on that,” said Sorensen, who is ranked second with a 16-0 record. “I’m focusing on the dual. Minnesota is coming in and that’s what is in front of us.”
Brands said the three-time All-American has represented the program best through his “speak softly and carry a big stick” attitude. He added that Sorensen shares the same “mouth shut and my eyes and ears open” with the young talent in the room.
He has been durable, wrestling at least 31 matches in each of his first three seasons and posting a 116-13 career victories.
Brands said that toughness is a tribute to his parents, Dwight and Julie Sorensen, and the rural Iowa background.
“He’s a true Hawkeye,” Brands said. “Four years he’s given everything with very little down time, if any. There is no fragility in his mind or his body.”
Brands added, “He’s been great. No drama.”
Brands said Sorensen has done a better job of opening up this season — he has five pins, three technical falls and three major decisions — and warned others about underestimating his offensive abilities.
“He’s very diverse in what he can do out there,” Brands said. “He’s got a motor. He’s disciplined. He’s a super competitor.”
The biggest improvement has been mental for Sorensen, who said he made huge strides being mentally focused and staying relaxed. Advice he’d go back and give an earlier version of himself.
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“The big thing is staying calm (and) relaxed, focusing on one match at a time,” Sorensen said. “Not getting ahead of yourself and keep moving forward. Keep improving. Give it all you’ve got. Be the best you can be.”
The words of wisdom could have been used in his CHA debut, when he was too amped up by the raucous home crowd and hit a wall, nearly squandering a big lead in a 7-6 victory over Iowa State’s Gabe Moreno. He learned from that and has been 33-3 at home.
He will have one last chance to emerge from the tunnel to music and the Hawkeye fans’ cheers Sunday. Sorensen said nothing compares to that experience.
“It’s awesome,” Sorensen said. “It gives you chills down your back. You hear the crowd. The crowd is loud. It’s a great atmosphere.”
Few have been as steady as Sorensen. He is a two-time Big Ten finalist, finishing third last season. He has an opportunity to become Iowa’s 20th four-time NCAA medalist, reaching the finals in 2016, placing third last year and fourth as a freshman.
Only one month remains for him to achieve his ultimate goal.
“There are things I want to get done,” Sorensen said. “Right now, I want the national title and I have one shot to do that. That is where all my energy is going. It’s to be on top of that podium March 17.”
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