EAST LANSING, Mich. — An old nemesis denied Brandon Sorensen one last chance for a Big Ten championship on Sunday.
The Iowa senior settled for second place for the third time in his career, dropping a 2-0 decision to top-seeded, two-time national champion Zain Retherford of Penn State in the finals at 149 pounds at the Big Ten Championships.
Iowa finished fourth in the team race — its lowest finish in 12 years — and the only Hawkeye to reach Sunday’s finals at the Breslin Center, Sorensen fell to 0-6 in his career against Retherford.
In a match that was scoreless after two periods, Retherford used an escape in the third period and picked up a point for the riding time he collected while denying Sorensen a chance to escape in the second period to move to 25-0 on the season.
“It wasn’t the match I wanted,’’ Sorensen said. “If I’m going down, I have to get out. That’s something I have to think about.’’
The loss followed a 6-2 setback to Retherford in a dual last month, the only blemishes on Sorensen’s 21-2 record.
They also were the only matches that Retherford, named following the meet as the Big Ten wrestler of the year, has had decided by something other than a pin, a technical fall or a major decision.
When brackets for the NCAA Championships are announced on Wednesday, the pair will likely be the top two seeds for the tournament beginning March 15 in Cleveland.
“I have to get ready mentally,’’ Sorensen said. “Work on bottom, quick finishes, short goes and high pace. It’s only a seven-minute match and it goes by quick.’’
Sorensen wasn’t the only Hawkeye who left the Big Ten Championships with some work to do.
Only two Hawkeyes — Spencer Lee in a third-place match at 125 and Vince Turk in a fifth-place match at 141 — won their final matches of the tournament.
Named the Big Ten freshman of the year following Sunday’s meet, Lee rebounded from a 2-1 loss in the final seconds of his semifinal match to dominate in pair of matches Sunday.
The first Hawkeye to win the Big Ten freshman honor since Matt McDonough in 2010 followed a 12-0 major decision in the consolation semifinals by needing 3 minutes, 14 seconds to earn a 16-0 technical fall against Purdue’s Luke Welch in his third-place match.
Turk, who entered the tournament unseeded, used a pair of first-period takedowns to beat eighth-seeded Eli Stickley of Wisconsin 4-1 his fifth-place match.
Iowa did qualify nine wrestlers for the NCAA Championships, but its fourth-place team finish is the program’s lowest since finishing sixth during the 2005-06 season.
Ohio State and Penn State, which combined to fill 12 of the 20 spots in the finals, finished 1-2 with 164.5 and 148 points, respectively. Michigan took third with 118, well ahead of the Hawkeyes’ total of 90.5.
“We have work to do regardless of where we ended up in each individual weight class,’’ Iowa coach Tom Brands said. “I think we fell off, obviously. Our seeds didn’t hold in a lot of places and we need to get there.’’
The Hawkeyes’ Sam Stoll lost a 5-2 decision to Penn State’s Nick Nevills to finish fourth at 285, while Iowa’s Alex Marinelli at 165 and Joey Gunther at 174 lost decisions in their fifth-place matches.
Iowa's Mitch Bowman finished eighth at 184. The junior from North Scott fell 9-4 to Wisconsin's Ricky Robertson in his seven-place match.
Two Hawkeyes, Michael Kemerer at 157 and Cash Wilcke at 197, forfeited their fifth-place matches because of injuries.
Illinois’ Isaiah Martinez was named the Outstanding Wrestler of the Championships after becoming the first Fighting Illini ever to win four Big Ten titles.
Martinez, top seeded at 165, avenged a loss in last year’s national finals by winning a 4-1 decision over Penn State’s Vincenzo Joseph to become the 16th Big Ten wrestler to win four championships.
“That’s a hard thing to do in this day in age with things being as competitive as it is,’’ said Illini coach Jim Heffernan, who accomplished the feat during his career at Iowa. “To beat the guy who beat you in the national finals last year and wrestling three top-10 guys to get there, he did a heck of a job.’’
Illinois’ other finalist, freshman Mike Carr, lost to Joey McKenna of Ohio State 13-0 in his championship match at 141.