IOWA CITY — Brandon Sorensen earned a reputation as a battler with a hard-nosed mentality and tremendous work ethic.
His no-nonsense approach was at the heart of his wrestling success as a four-time All-American and NCAA finalist at Iowa and a four-time state champion at Denver-Tripoli.
The current Hawkeye Wrestling Club member faces his toughest battle, yet.
Hawkeyes Coach Tom Brands opened his weekly news conference Tuesday with the announcement that Sorensen has been diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. The former 149-pounder began tests Friday and started treatment Tuesday at UIHC.
“I am prepared to beat this disease, and there is no wait,” Sorensen said in a news release. “The challenge is right in front of me and I am all-in. I know I am not alone in this fight. I have the very best doctors, resources, and family you could possibly hope for, and I know that we will beat this cancer together. There is no choice. We will move forward with success.”
Acute lymphoblastic leukemia is a type of cancer in the blood and bone marrow, affecting white blood cells.
“It’s not good news, but the team for Brandon Sorensen is on top of it,” Brands said. “(Associate head coach) Terry (Brands) and I, the rest of the coaching staff and wrestlers are close to the situation. He’s up for the challenge.”
Tom Brands said Sorensen was never the cause of drama or trouble in more than five years with the Hawkeyes and HWC, excelling on the mat and in the classroom. Each day brings new perspectives to the 14-year Iowa coach and the news impacted him.
“We know we’re not a wrestling factory here,” Brands said. “We’re about winning, graduating and doing it right. The character of our team is rallying behind Sorensen. The Sorensen family is seeing (and) feeling it.
“Brandon Sorensen has been a top-rated soldier for this program. He always marched the right way and that’s what we loved most about him and still love and he’s still a part of our program with the Hawkeye Wrestling Club. He’s got a little detour here and we have a good team of people behind him.”
Sorensen was Iowa’s 20th four-time All-American, placing fifth or better each season from 2015-18. He earned a national runner-up finish in 2016. Sorensen capped his career with 127 career victories and earned respect from many in other programs.
“With the news we just heard from Iowa City, it sounds like he has a tough fight on his hands,” Iowa State Coach and former Iowa NCAA champion Kevin Dresser said, “but the one thing about Brandon Sorensen that I’ll always remember sitting in the opposite corner is what a tough kid he is and what a great kid he is.
“He’ll win. He always figures out a way to win.”
Wrestling is a tool for life lessons. Brands said this is a good example of handling adversity and seizing the moment each day.
The Hawkeyes have experienced plenty of adversity the last two years, including the loss of longtime program friend and coach Mike Duroe to brain cancer and the tragic death of Eli Stickley, the twin brother of former team manager and current Director of Wrestling Operations Moriah Marinelli.
“You don’t always get what you want,” Brands said. “You get dealt bad hands in life. You don’t know what’s in your future and when bad things come up you have to deal with them.
“Bad things happen to good people all the time, so this is a real life example of that.”
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A gofundme page has been created to help support Sorensen and his family with medical expenses.