Notebook: Iowa grapplers ready for league championships

BY CODY GOODWIN | MARCH 07, 2013 5:00 AM

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Tom Brands was momentarily caught off-guard during his chat with the media on Wednesday afternoon.

The Iowa wrestling coach was answering a question that pertained to the upcoming Big Ten championships, and if he was aback by any of the pre-seeds that were announced three days ago. He wasn’t, he said, and he really isn’t worried about the seeds.

“But once those brackets are laid out,” Brands said, “it’ll be one match at a time …”

He paused. Tony Ramos had just walked into the practice room, sporting his usual grin. Brands looked as if he was about to say something to Ramos but thought differently, and just smiled.

Brands continued speaking.

“… into the awards, and to create credentials and accolades for yourself.”

It seems both fitting and humorous that Brands spoke loosely about winning individual Big Ten titles as Ramos, one of the favorites at 133-pounds, strolled into the practice room.

Should the Big Ten wrestling championships seedings hold, Ramos will find himself up against a string of tough wrestlers. The Glenbard North product, of Carol Stream, Ill., is predicted to nab the second seed in one of the league’s deepest weight-classes — five of the top-seven seeded wrestlers are ranked in the top 10 nationally.

Ramos’ record shows he’s ready for every foe that steps on the opposing line. He went 8-0 in Big Ten duals this season with four pins, three major-decisions, and one technical-fall. He is slated to meet Ohio State’s Logan Stieber, if everything goes according to the seeds, in a highly anticipated bout for a Big Ten championship on the afternoon of March 10.

“I’ve thought about it,” Ramos said. “It’s exciting, but I have to get through the two rounds before then.”

‘Add a couple of more guys, and it is the NCAA bracket’

Mike Evans admitted that his schedule toughened him up a bit this season.

It seems almost obvious that he said that. The Big Ten’s toughest weight class, arguably, has been 174-pounds this season. Of the country’s top 11 wrestlers at the weight, all but three belong to the Big Ten.

Evans went 7-1 in Big Ten duals this season, losing only to Minnesota’s Logan Storley, 4-3, on Jan. 26. Looking ahead is not something Evans, pre-seeded second at the weight, can afford. His regular season taught him that.

“When you get those ranked guys match after match after match, that’s how it’s going to be at Big Tens and NCAAs. It’s going to be match after match after match,” Evans said. “You add a couple of more guys, it is the NCAA bracket.”

McDonough ready for redemption

Matt McDonough admits that he’s been struggling lately. But he also said that battling through these trials can only lead to good things. The Iowa senior has lost just two of his last six matches, but that’s been unusual for the two-time national champion. The vulnerability he’s displayed as of late, though, hasn’t stopped McDonough from working even harder.

The pre-seeds have McDonough slated as the No. 1 wrestler in the Big Ten at 125 pounds. The final seeding will be the ultimate say before wrestling begins on Saturday — there’s an interesting scenario at the weight among the top three wrestlers: McDonough defeated Penn State’s Nico Megaludis, who pinned Illinois’s Jesse Delgado, who beat McDonough. “Everyone is going after it,” McDonough, a two-time Big Ten champion, said. “I have to go in there with the mindset that I’m going to take what’s mine.”

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