'He's A Part Of Us': The Iowa Hawkeyes Are Rallying Around Brandon Sorensen

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The Iowa wrestling team has a knack at finding a deeper meaning to wrestling. On Saturday, the squad is putting that on display in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Four-time All-American and current Hawkeye Wrestling Club member Brandon Sorensen was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in early December. To honor him, three thousand headbands will be given away to the first fans into the arena for Iowa’s Saturday night dual against Nebraska.

Per head coach Tom Brands at his weekly press conference, “the numbers are going the way the numbers need to go.” Brands also said that Sorensen was told by doctors on Wednesday that he would be getting out of the hospital that day. 

“He’s a part of us,” Brands said. “This isn’t about us thinking of him, this isn’t about anything other than he’s a part of us. These battles are long battles, but stranger things have happened as far as how people recover – you know, will he get on the mat again, I think we can be optimistic that that’s a possibility.”

Brands and his coaching staff preach accountability to their wrestlers every day, whether they’re a senior or in the early stages of recruiting. 

Sorensen, in that aspect, is a Hawkeye through and through. Being a four-time All-American isn’t easy, and for the wrestlers wearing an Iowa singlet now, it gives them something to look up to. But through enduring treatment and being strong in the face of the unknown, that accountability and a drive to live his life the right way has come out more than ever. 

“You sit with a guy in a hospital room, there’s more words come out of his mouth than ever before,” Brands said. “You knew the mentality was there because of how he competed, but he also is very good philosophy-wise, coaching, good communicating, principles and standards of what high-level living is all about. That’s why his numbers are going the right direction.”

This year’s Iowa wrestling team is close, possibly more so than ever before. No matter if they’re on the bench or one of the starting 10 and no matter if their teammate’s success means less starting time for them, they go the distance for the team. 

It’s easy to see if you just look over to Iowa’s bench. When you see that kind of comradery, it’s clear that when they go all-in for something more than just success.

“We’re going to be wearing that headband with pride,” Alex Marinelli said. “It’s going to be awesome; we’re going to dedicate that day to him so we’ve just got a good thing going.”

Sorensen’s support system ranges from his mom and girlfriend all the way to the depths of the wrestling world. A GoFundMe page set up on the day of the announcement surpassed its goal of $30,000 in the first few days and now sits at over $100,000, with people still donating. 

The entire wrestling community rallied around one of its own, and the Hawkeyes are right in the middle of it. 

“At the end of the day, I know that he’s appreciative,” Brands said. “The biggest thing is that it’s not important because it’s natural and pure that we love him and we’re with him the whole way. He’s got a place here forever.”


Anna attended the University of Iowa, where she covered multiple sports from volleyball to football to wrestling. She went to Pittsburgh in March 2019 for the NCAA DI Wrestling Championships and did live coverage of the entire event and Spencer Lee’s second-straight NCAA title. Follow her on Twitter.

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