Iowa's Ramos within a few steps of knocking off Stieber

BY CODY GOODWIN | MARCH 12, 2013 5:00 AM

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The scene needed no words. Ohio State’s Logan Stieber bounced up on his toes and flexed his muscles in excitement. The Ohio State contingent came unhinged at the sight of Stieber’s 3-1 overtime victory to clinch a Big Ten championship at 133-pounds. Tony Ramos wasn’t looking, even though he was a few short feet away. He picked himself up, head hung in disappointment, shook hands with Stieber, and scampered off the mat and down into the tunnel of Assembly Hall. One of his season-long goals — beating Stieber, the defending 133-pound NCAA champion — remains just that: an unachieved goal.

“I let him get in too deep,” Ramos said. “I was fighting, went for the bear hug, tried to go in for the last resort and throw him. It didn’t work.” Iowa’s 133-pounder waited for that matchup since Jan. 4, when the Buckeyes visited Carver-Hawkeye Arena. At that time, Stieber sat out of the dual with what seemed to be an undisclosed injury from December’s Grapple at the Garden.

The time finally came on Sunday afternoon, and Ramos proved to the wrestling world that he has, in fact, bridged the distance between the two. It took an extra period, and a bear-hug of a takedown, for Stieber to close out an intense battle. “Every match [against Ramos] has been tough,” Stieber said. “They’re all different, but they’re really tough. And they’re fun.”

Stieber’s words ring true. The Monroeville, Ohio, product’s first match with Ramos was a lopsided 7-0 victory. Ramos came closer in their next bout, but Stieber still won, 5-2. The NCAA semifinals were their third match of the 2011-12 season, and Stieber came away with a 4-2 win. Ramos has slowly improved with each match, and it showed during Sunday’s Big Ten title bout. His inability to get out from bottom was silenced when Ramos took little time to score a 1-point escape in the second period. The Hawkeye junior also did a better job riding Stieber, holding him down for nearly 30 seconds before the Buckeye scored the equalizer.

The difference this time, perhaps, was Ramos’s inability to score while on his feet. This was a struggle for Ramos even in his semifinal match against Wisconsin’s Tyler Graff. Ramos scored off of a reshot to win that one, 3-1. That carried over to his finals match, where he didn’t seem to fully commit to the legs for a full-on shot. “Ramos has to be going to Stieber,” Iowa head wrestling coach Tom Brands said. “Stieber got to us twice. We’ve got to get to those guys. He’s shown he can do that. We know he can do that. He’s shown it.”

Ramos, though seemingly down on low spirits while being interviewed after the match, remains positive, and he looks forward to a potential rematch in Des Moines just two weeks away. More will be at stake that time around, though. Should the two meet up again, it will likely be for an NCAA championship.

“I get closer every time,” Ramos said. Now, I’ve got two weeks to get it right.”

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