Ramos, Hawkeye wrestling look to “prove a point” against Iowa State


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Tony Ramos can’t wait to find out what all the fuss is about.

He remembers hearing last year about an Iowa high-school wrestler who was pursuing a fourth-straight undefeated season, and that the younger wrestler had committed to Iowa State.

John Meeks eventually did win that title, finishing his career at Des Moines Roosevelt with a 168-0 record. He became just the sixth Iowa prep wrestler ever to go undefeated and win four championships.

Earlier this week, Ramos finally sat down to watch some tape on the phenom he’ll likely face Saturday when the Hawkeyes square off against Iowa State.

“Real slow,” Ramos said. “Not too impressed by it. I’ll be ready to go.”

The junior 133-pounder, who placed third nationally last season, said he made sure to send a message to Iowa’s highly touted true freshman in the practice room this summer. He’ll try to do the same in Carver-Hawkeye Arena this weekend.

“With all the freshmen you hear a lot about, you want to go and prove a point right away,” Ramos said. “This guy is no different than wrestling [Iowa’s Cory] Clark or [Thomas] Gilman.”

Meeks lost in his début as a starter, falling 6-3 to Old Dominion’s Scott Festejo. Ramos, meanwhile, has been dominant early this season. He pinned five of his first six opponents and beat the other by major decision. Iowa coach Tom Brands praised his approach.

“You need an example, look at him,” Brands said. “He’s very mature and grown up, and he’s done some good things. He’s got a good test with this freshman they’re high on, and he’s got to be ready.”

Ramos is ranked No. 3 at 133 pounds by Intermat, and Meeks isn’t ranked. But the freshman’s pedigree means their showdown might be the best match of a dual meet that Brands admitted isn’t the spectacle it was in 2008 or 2009, when the teams faced off as Nos. 1 and 2 in the nation.

The Hawkeyes are ranked No. 4 in the USA Today Coaches Poll. Iowa State lost to Old Dominion and is outside the top-25.

“Results show they’re not happy,” Brands said. “You don’t have the No. 1 team in America, nor do you have two high-ranked opponents. From the outside, experts don’t see it as a top-billed event. But we don’t look at it that way. Regardless of what it looks like on paper, we have to get ready to wrestle.”

It looks good for Iowa on paper. The Hawkeyes have the higher-ranked wrestler at eight of 10 weights. Mark Ballweg, Ethen Lofthouse, and Nathan Burak should all have difficult tests, but the Hawkeyes are heavy favorites.

Senior Grant Gambrall has seen Iowa-Iowa State when it was a big deal. And while he knows fans may not see it that way this year, he said the wrestlers still do.

“If you’re talking about the perspective of our team and the way we train and the way we approach things, I don’t think it’s lost any of its luster,” he said. “But if you’re talking about from the fans’ perspective, I can see where maybe they’re not as hyped up. Fans want the No. 1 and 2 team in the country going at it. They’ve had that in the past, and those aren’t the rankings between the two teams right now.”

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