In honor of senior night this Sunday I thought I would make a profile about the three Iowa starters who are in the lineup, starting with none other than 133 pounds of intense stare down himself, Tony Ramos.
Tony Ramos came to Iowa from Glenbard North High School in Illinois. While at Glenbard Ramos was a three time state champion winning his final title at 125 pounds. Ramos was a top ten overall high school recruit when he committed to Iowa, and a lot of the fans were all buzzed about getting a strong 125 pounder to compliment their future 133 pounder Nate Moore. It wasn’t until Tony got to campus did Iowa realize the true problem that they had on their hands.
Ramos competed his first season for the Hawkeyes at 133. As is the tradition for wrestlers who compete for Coach Tom Brands, Ramos was taking his redshirt and wrestling up a weight class from where he would compete his first season. Then everything changed, a homegrown Iowan named Matt McDonough emerged as an NCAA Champion as a Freshman. It all but seemed that not only would Ramos not be able to compete at his natural wrestling weight of 125, but have to move up a weight class and try and enter the lineup at 133.
The 133 spot was no picnic either. Just because there wasn’t a returning NCAA Champion there, didn’t mean there wasn’t a returning NCAA qualifier. Tyler Clark, who had transferred to Iowa from rival Iowa State was entering his first eligible season as a Hawkeye after transfer rules dictating he must sit out a year. Under Cael Sanderson at Iowa State Clark had posted a 43-20 record in two seasons. The other contender was two time Iowa high school state champion Nate Moore. Moore later got sick with a staph infection, opening the door for Ramos to make the spot a two horse race. It was fairly apparent that Brands favored the way Ramos attacked his opponents and his relentless style allowing him to start the Iowa State, UNI, and against Michigan State to start the season. When Ramos finished 6th at Midlands losing to teammate Tyler Clark in the 5th place match, some fans worried that perhaps Brands would turn to Clark for the rest of the season. The first real test was when Iowa wrestled Oklahoma State and at 133 Oklahoma State had the #1 ranked wrestler. Brands opted to go with Clark in favor of Ramos for the dual to try and avoid letting his freshman getting pinned against the bonus point machine Jordan Oliver. Oliver ended up winning 4-11 and that was the last varsity action Clark saw the rest of the year. Ramos finished the season 25-6, finished third in the Big Ten, and finished in the round of 12 (one win shy of All America status) at the NCAA Championships.
The next season we saw a motivated Tony Ramos. Motivated by his failing to place at the NCAA tournament. Without the added drama of whether or not Ramos should start, it was a fairly easy season for the Sophomore. He finished the season 33-4, his first loss of the season coming to Virginia Tech’s Devin Carter in the Midland tournament finals. Ramos didn’t receive his next loss until almost a month later to eventual NCAA Champion Logan Stieber at the Ohio State dual. In fact after his loss to Carter at Midlands, Stieber was the only other wrestler to defeat Tony all season. Tony finished second at the Big Ten tournament and finished third for his first All America honor. And after only recording two pins the previous season, Ramos had upped the ante by recording eight as a sophomore and more importantly was 15-0 inside Carver Hawkeye Arena after two seasons. His most notable win at Carver, beating NCAA champion Jordan Oliver 4-3 in the tie breaker periods.
The only bad part about Ramos not being able to beat Steiber in any of the three matches was that the Ohio State wrestler was only a freshman meaning he wasn’t going anywhere for the foreseeable future. Ramos started his junior year off with a 26 match winning streak that he took all the way into the conference tournament. Going 23-0 in duals (9-0 at Carver), but it still wasn’t enough as he ran into Stieber again at the Big Ten tournament where he lost his chance at his first conference title on a takedown in Sudden Victory. If anything it showed Tony that he did indeed have the ability to beat Stieber after losing 0-7 in their fist meeting Tony was whittling down the margin Stieber was winning (2-5, 2-4, 1-3 SV). It seemed as though fate was finally going to break through and
maybe, just maybe if they met in the NCAA finals Tony could get his revenge. Alas it was not meant to be and Ramos finished second at the NCAAs again behind Stieber.
Tony got a "break" his senior year when Stieber decided he could no longer hold 133 and bumped up to 141. Ramos entered the year the #1 ranked wrestler and the title favorite. But, a loss in the dual meet at Edinboro to AJ Schoop, whom he majored in the previous season, and an unfortunate pin in the Midland finals against UNI wrestler Joe Colon had some fans wondering whether Tony would be able to get over the hump. Since losing to Colon, Ramos has won 11 straight including seven by bonus. Most Hawkeye fan’s still believe Tony has what it takes to win a National Title, and you can count me as one of them.
I want to end this by saying this match on Sunday holds both special meaning to Tony and the Hawkeye fans. It is very rare for a wrestler to come into this program and be a four year starter. It is even more rare that a wrestler can win his first 33 matches inside Carver. This Sunday Tony has a chance at perfection, 34-0 career record at home. Take away for a moment that Tony has already won over 100 matches, and needs just two more to rank 25th all time in wins. This perfection at Carver means so much to fans who don’t get to travel to away meets, that they know every time they go to a home meet, Tony is going to give them a show. Tony will forever be remembered for his win total, his pin total, "The Staredown", but I will always remember what Tony did by refusing to lose on his home mat. Tony has given so much to Iowa fans over the last four years, so I hope everyone that can, will show up and be in the stands, to give him the respect he has earned wearing the Black and Gold.
**Update: If you follow this on Brent Metcalf you can see that he was 25-0 at Carver. Metcalf is considered by some a top 10 Hawkeye, or at least top 20 so what Ramos is doing is truly something remarkable.
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