Ramos’ smart wrestling has boosted him since Midlands

BY J.T. BUGOS | MARCH 03, 2011 7:20 AM

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Tony Ramos wasn’t the top 133-pounder on the Iowa wrestling team on Dec. 30, 2010. That distinction belonged to Tyler Clark, the fellow Hawkeye who bested Ramos in the fifth-place match at the Midlands Championships.

But since that time, Ramos has ripped the starting spot from Clark, reeled off eight Big Ten dual victories — the only Big Ten 133-pounder to have an 8-0 record — and vaulted to a No. 7 national ranking.

Two of Ramos’ Big Ten wins have come against ranked wrestlers. He beat Penn State’s third-ranked Andrew Long — the preliminary No. 1 seed for the Big Ten championships and the only grappler in the conference to best Wisconsin’s Tyler Graff, the preliminary No. 2 seed — with a 3-2 decision on Jan. 30. He had taken down Northwestern’s No. 19 Levi Mele, 9-3, two days earlier.

But even with the lone undefeated Big Ten record and noteworthy victories, Ramos still sits behind Long and Graff in the preliminary rankings for the championships.

That doesn’t bother the redshirt freshman, though.

“I don’t care about the seedings, it really means nothing …” he said. “People are saying I deserve a spot, but you don’t deserve anything. You earn it … They didn’t feel I earned it, so I’m going to have to go through Graff and then Long. Which I’m fine with that.”

After his poor showing at Midlands — which included three-straight losses to Illinois’ B.J. Futrell (preliminary No. 4 seed for Big Tens), Cal Poly’s Flip Novachkov, and Clark — Ramos didn’t get the nod at Oklahoma State. Instead, Clark stepped on the mat in Stillwater, Okla., on Jan. 16 against Jordan Oliver, the top-ranked 133-pounder in the country. Clark lost, 11-4.

Head coach Tom Brands said the move to plug Clark and not Ramos into the lineup against Oliver wasn’t intended to motivate Ramos, and Ramos also insisted he didn’t view it as a slight.

“I don’t know if it was motivation, but there was a plan behind that, why I didn’t go to Oklahoma State — it was to get more mat time,” Ramos said. “I feel like that extra three matches that I got helped me in wrestling smarter and boosting my confidence a little bit from what had happened at Midlands. It was coach’s call, and I went with it because I’m never going to second-guess what they’re saying. It obviously worked.”

Ramos’ run through the Big Ten regular season has spawned a swagger that Brands has noted on many occasions. Ramos can be seen walking with more confidence, though Brands said that wasn’t missing early in the season.

“I think he’s always been confident,” the fifth-year head coach said. “Remember, he was young once. He’s not young any more, but at one time this year, he was young. It’s not an excuse, but he’s grown and matured. And we’ll see, it’s a two-day tournament. So we’ll see. A lot of questions are going to be answered.”

Questions such as whether Ramos can survive his first taste of the grueling two-day tournament with four other ranked 133-pounders. Or if he can take down a highly ranked wrestler, such as he did against Long but failed to do against Futrell. But the biggest question is if he can keep wrestling smart, which is what he said made the biggest difference from Midlands to now.

Luke Lofthouse sees the smart wrestling, and he said the difference between December Ramos and March Ramos has been focus and determination — which could put him on top of the podium at the conclusion of the Big Ten championships.

“Everyone sees it. He goes out there, and he’s ready to wrestle hard for seven minutes and more if he has to,” Lofthouse said. “He’s attacking constantly. He gets into some of those shots, and he doesn’t finish, but he’s right back into it as soon as they’re back on the mat again. That’s what’s going to win matches, and you’ve seen it all year long. The guys who are attacking consistently are the ones that are winning those matches, especially the close ones at the end.”

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