Injuries hamper Sorenson, Gibson in Iowa State’s worst-ever finish at nationals


Photo: Rebekka Brown/Iowa State Daily

Andrew Sorenson works to keep Cornell’s Marshall Peppelman from escaping on Sunday, Jan. 29, at Hilton. Sorenson defeated Peppelman 21-6 and the Cyclones ended the night with a 28-12 defeat to Big Red.

Jake Calhoun

ST. LOUIS — Andrew Sorenson was furious.

The redshirt senior, who had advanced to the quarterfinals of the 165-pound championship bracket after the first night of the 2012 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships in St. Louis, was not angry about the way his opponents wrestled in his two victories, nor was he angry about any of the calls the referees had made.

Sorenson was angry that he sustained an ankle injury — the second majorly inconvenient injury after missing the 2011 NCAA Championships due to a torn UCL in his elbow just weeks before the Big 12 Championships — in his second-round victory against Cornell’s Marshall Peppelman.

“After that [match], I tried to make some game plans to how I was going to score points,” Sorenson said. “With the ankle, it really made my mobility a lot more limited.”

Sorenson, the No. 3 wrestler at 165 pounds for the tournament, went on to lose in the quarterfinals to eventual runner-up Brandon Hatchett of Lehigh on Friday morning before he lost to Wisconsin’s Ben Jordan in the consolation bracket, one match shy of attaining All-American status for an early exit.

“I believe Andrew would have made the finals [had he not gotten injured],” said ISU coach Kevin Jackson. “It limited everything. He was unable to explode, he was unable to shoot, he was unable to defend himself, he was unable to get off the bottom cleanly.

“I just give him all the credit in the world for being able to go out there and compete. He still made both matches very competitive.”

Sorenson’s loss — his second to Jordan this season — in the consolation bracket marked the first time Iowa State has not had an All-American since 1962. It also marked the first time since 2008 that a Cyclone did not win a national championship and the first time since 2003 there was not a Cyclone in a championship match.

“Without a doubt, I know I’m in the championship round wrestling [Penn State’s David] Taylor if I didn’t hurt my ankle,” Sorenson said. “I don’t really know how to put it in words.”

Of the eight wrestlers who became All-Americans at 165 pounds, Sorenson was 3-1 against three of them during the regular season.

Matt Gibson, the Cyclones’ other seeded wrestler at No. 12 at heavyweight, also took an early exit with injuries.

After losing his first-round match against Ohio State’s Peter Capone — one of four seeded heavyweights to do so — Gibson outscored his opponents 18-3 in his next two matches in the consolation bracket to advance.

However, Gibson said he pulled his groin in the first of those wins — a 10-3 victory against Northern Iowa’s Blayne Beale — making it difficult for him to ride legs and fire off attacks as a result.

Just two wins shy of attaining All-American status, Gibson lost to the eventual seventh-place finisher Jeremy Johnson of Ohio in an 11-2 major decision to be eliminated from the tournament.

“I don’t think it was an excuse to lose,” Gibson said of the injury. “I think I let the injury get to me more than I should have. I should have focused more on wrestling. When I get caught in certain positions, I’d focus on [the injury], I’d lose focus and it just affected how I performed.”

During his match against Johnson, Gibson was seen favoring his hip and groin and was in noticeable pain, soon requiring two injury timeouts in the match.

“There was some tightness in the hip area, but I don’t think it affected his wrestling, I don’t think it affected his results at all,” Jackson said of Gibson’s injuries. “He had everything else that any other wrestler has going through here. They get knicked up.”

Iowa State concluded its worst-ever performance at nationals with a 35th-place team finish as four of its five qualifying wrestlers lost before session IV, when Sorenson was eliminated from the tournament.

“It was a disappointing tournament,” Jackson said. “Obviously, what you see is what you get as far as our results are concerned, so we’re definitely disappointed.”

The Cyclones failed to score any points in the final three sessions of the tournament, dropping from 31st to 35th place.

Session II, which was held Thursday night, was the most successful for the Cyclones; they scored eight points from pins posted by both Ryak Finch (125) and Luke Goettl (141) in the second consolation round along with victories from Gibson and Sorenson.

Injuries were a key contributor to the Cyclones’ woes this season, namely keeping redshirt junior Chris Spangler out of the national tournament — where he would have received a No. 8 seed at 174 pounds — due to precautions related to his past history of concussions, among others.

“[Injuries played] a huge impact,” Sorenson said. “If you look at the beginning of the year and you saw the guys that were on the roster and you had your 10 starters picked, by the end of the year there was probably four of them that you picked [still competing]. We had that many guys get injured.”

Gibson said while injuries are a part of wrestling, some injuries are worse than others.

“Sorenson’s injury was pretty serious and he physically just couldn’t perform,” Gibson said. “He was mentally there, his body just wouldn’t allow him to do it.”

Even though this season’s conclusion did not leave much to look forward to for next season, Jackson remained optimistic regardless of the circumstances that plagued his team.

“I live by faith and not by sight, so I know what we have as far as what we’re building,” Jackson said. “And I know what we have coming into the program and I know what’s going on, so all we can do is keep pushing forward and keep building and keep putting guys in our program that can help us.”