Three weeks ago, after a bitterly disappointing loss to fellow Hawkeye Wrestling Club member Dan Dennis, Tony Ramos lashed out, saying that he felt "betrayed" and that he needed to leave the Iowa program. He's cooled down since then and walked back his more incendiary comments, but that feeling of needing to leave Iowa City hasn't changed. Now we know where he's going: North Carolina, to continue his training as a freestyle competitor and also to begin his coaching career as an assistant on the UNC staff.
Here's the text of Ramos' comments:
Ultimately, this is probably a good move for Ramos -- and maybe a necessary one as well. He's had great success here, both during his collegiate career (when he was a two-time NCAA finalist, NCAA Champion, Big Ten champion, and the architect of some of the loudest cheers in recent memory at Carver-Hawkeye Arena) and during his post-collegiate career (when he won the starting spot at 57 KG on the World Team in 2014 and 2015). But the situation became awkward with Daniel Dennis' return to the Hawkeye Wrestling Club (and his move down to 57 KG to compete for a spot on the Olympic Team) and that awkwardness may have been present going forward. Plus, while Ramos had access to great coaching in Iowa City in the form of Tom and Terry Brands, it's not like Coleman Scott is a slouch, either -- he represented the United States at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London and won a bronze medal. If Ramos can learn some new skills under Scott that can help him get to another level as a freestyle competitor, more power to him.
And if Ramos is interested in starting his coaching career (which seems to be the case), then the move makes even more sense. There are no openings on the Iowa staff and while there's no doubt a faction of Iowa fans that would love to see current assistant coach Ryan Morningstar let go to make room for Ramos, that idea is far from a no-brainer. For one thing, Iowa probably doesn't need another light weight coach right now, no matter how good Ramos is -- Tom and Terry Brands are not too shabby when it comes to coaches who specialize in the light weights. For another, Morningstar has played a key role in modernizing Iowa's recruiting efforts and he's helped build ties with many of Iowa's recent high-profile recruits. And, much like his training, I think working with another coach and another staff will only be an asset to Ramos in his future coaching career -- learning new approaches and new ways of doing things should be beneficial to him.
Ramos' departure will hurt the Hawkeye Wrestling Club -- it's never a good thing to lose one of the top guys in the country at a weight and Ramos is certainly one of the best guys around at 57 KG and it may hurt the Iowa program slightly -- being able to train in the same room with Ramos was probably a nice ancillary benefit if you were a light weight recruit. But I don't think guys like Spencer Lee or Gavin Teasdale were basing their decision to come to Iowa on whether or not they'd get a chance to roll with Tony Ramos, either. And the fact that he's moving to North Carolina is probably a positive for Iowa -- it would have been far more awkward (and potentially more damaging to the program) had Ramos opted to stay in the midwest (and the Big Ten specifically) to continue his career.
Ramos is a Hawkeye, was a Hawkeye, and always will be a Hawkeye. I wish him well as he moves on to North Carolina for the next stage of his career. I hope he's able to climb the mountain in the freestyle ranks and win a World or Olympic medal -- even if he isn't representing the Hawkeye Wrestling Club while doing so, he'll still be representing the United States and Iowa. And if his path brings him back to Iowa and/or the Hawkeye Wrestling Club in the future, I'll welcome him with open arms. But for now goodbye and good luck, Tony. Thanks for all the memories.