IOWA CITY — Observations from an old wrestling writer standing on the Carver-Hawkeye Arena concourse:
l The last time Oklahoma State’s wrestling team came to town, an NCAA-record 42,287 fans piled into Kinnick Stadium for the Grapple on the Gridiron on an unseasonably warm November day.
On Sunday, 13,485 were nestled into CHA for a big-time production that included pyrotechnics, between-match interviews and big-screen videos.
It was a great show and something a sport like wrestling needs to draw in new fans. I get it.
But this is Iowa-Oklahoma State. The is the two greatest college wrestling programs in the history of the sport.
This dual doesn’t need the bells and whistles — although the idea of interviewing Hawkeye Wrestling Club Coach Mark Perry while his uncle John Smith was coaching the opposing team was clever.
The Cowboys came in 6-0 and ranked third in the country. They left 6-1 after seventh-ranked Iowa won six of the 10 bouts and looked just Hawkeye enough to whip their storied opponent, 20-12.
Wrestling fans — particularly fans of these two great programs — come to watch skilled wrestlers fight and battle for every point. They want dominating wins and maybe an upset or two.
They want a mat with a circle in the middle and 20 of the top wrestlers in the country.
On Sunday, those 13,485 got what they wanted, and the vast majority of them left happy after the Hawkeyes’ third straight win in this series in Iowa City.
“We took a step and we have to keep moving forward,” Iowa Coach Tom Brands said after his sixth win over the Cowboys in 11 duals.
Brandon Sorensen has impressed since the first time he put on a Hawkeye singlet. But he hasn’t always dominated the way many would like. He’s seemed content to score 6-4, 8-3 and 3-1 wins.
On Sunday, he showed just how dominant he can be.
He built a 6-1 lead over Bo Lewallen after the first three minutes, extended it to 11-4 after the second period, then totally dismantled the 14th-ranked Cowboy, 11-4, in the final two minutes for a 23-8 technical fall.
“He needs to wrestle like that all the time,” a Hawkeye fan noted after the win gave Iowa an 8-7 team advantage.
“When I am attacking that’s when I’m best,” Sorensen said. “When my feet and hands are moving together, I’m feeling good. That’s when I think I can beat anyone and that’s what happened.”
The MVP of this dual was junior Mitch Bowman, whose 10-6 win over 19th-ranked Keegan Moore all but sealed the Hawkeye win.
Bowman was tough, fighting for seven minutes and never giving his opponent a moments rest.
“Going out there and getting a win to help the team win a close dual like that is incredible, especially in front of that crowd,” Bowman said. “It was euphoric — that’s kind of a big word for me — but it was incredible to hear the crowd erupt when the buzzer went off knowing that I did my job the way I should have done it.”
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