RYAN REEBENACKER, KNIGHT WIRE MANAGER
Jordon Brandon ’21, a heavyweight transfer student, stepped onto the mat with the Knights down by three and a disadvantage in criteria. His situation was complex, yet simple: dominate, or Wartburg loses.
The Wartburg Knights were in uncharted territory near the end of the quarterfinal match of the 2020 National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA) National Duals in Kentucky.
“Wrestling is what saved me, to be honest with you,” Brandon said. “I used to fight a lot in high school. That’s just how it went. All that aggression I transformed into wrestling. So once I got on the mat and I got a coach on me it kinda clicked. Life. I found an outlet.
“You know the story, I went from the guy who didn’t really have good grades and all that and wrestling helped me put the pieces together. It changed my life.”
Brandon defeated Jarod Miller of Baldwin Wallace by a 12-4 major decision, saving the Knights from a major upset. Wartburg went on to win the program’s 12th NWCA title.
“I don’t care about anything about rankings. All that matters is March.”— JORDON BRANDON
Brandon, 23, began wrestling as a sophomore while attending John Glenn High School in Westland, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit. Despite coming to the sport at a late age, Brandon progressed rapidly. In his junior season he was a state placewinner, and he ended his high school career as a state champion at 215 pounds.
“A lot of people think ‘oh, you’re just athletic,’” Brandon said of his late arrival to the sport. “No, I slaved. I worked. I wrestled tons of matches to get myself to where I need to be.”
After stints at Iowa Lakes Community College and Lincoln College in Illinois, Brandon went back home to Michigan and expected to be done with wrestling. Instead, his passion for the sport was sparked again after he spoke with current Wartburg wrestler and former Iowa Lakes teammate Isaiah Cox ’20.
“He’s always wanted to get a college degree and he knew he needed to get back into [wrestling] if it was gonna be a reality for him,” Keller said. “We reached out right away, and it was crazy because the guy was fired up right away in the moment. There was no ‘alright I’ll look into it,’ it was ‘nope, I’m
gonna do this.’”
“He’s got some high-level expectations, high-level goals. One of the main things he talked about in regards to coming back to school was that he wants to be a part of a championship team.”—ERIC KELLER
Brandon has established himself as the answer for the Knights at the 285-pound weight class after the graduation of all American heavyweight Bowen Wileman ’19. Brandon never faced Wileman on the mat, but in one of his early collegiate matches Brandon wrestled three-time all-American heavyweight Lance Evans ‘18 at the 2016 Luther Open.
“I remember it really clearly because I remember being really mad at Lance,” Keller said. “I had no idea who was wrestling Lance so tough, but when I did my digging on JB [Brandon] I realized that’s who it was.”
Evans narrowly beat Brandon en route to a 22-3 record that season, yet Brandon left a lasting impression on Keller and the Wartburg program.
“He’s gonna be a huge part of our team going forward,” Keller said. “He’s got some high-level expectations, high-level goals. One of the main things he talked about in regards to coming back to school was that he wants to be a part of a championship team.”
Brandon’s NWCA heroics later earned him a sixth-place ranking, but his focus lies on what he and the Knights can accomplish at nationals in two months.
“To be honest with you, my mom texts me a lot about rankings, my family cares about rankings,” Brandon, now the sixth ranked heavyweight in the nation, said. “I don’t care about anything about rankings. All that matters is March.”