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Ramos ends career in Carver perfect

BY DANNY PAYNE | FEBRUARY 10, 2014 5:00 AM

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The notion popped into Tony Ramos’ mind three weeks before. The Iowa senior said he hadn’t given any thought to the idea he could go undefeated in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Fast forward to Sunday; Ramos wrestled in his 34th match on the mat that has been his home since he won a 14-5 major decision against Iowa State’s Brandon Jones on Dec. 3, 2010.

The senior didn’t want to finish his career in Iowa City with only a decision. He wanted to win with a fall. He wasn’t able to manage what he hoped to do, instead finishing the second bout of No. 2 Iowa’s 26-6 victory over No. 12 Michigan (10-4, 6-2 Big Ten) with a 6-1 decision over Rossi Bruno.

“It was exciting; I liked it,” Ramos said. “I would have liked to do it in a little bit better fashion. But it got the job done, got the win.”

The Iowa (13-2, 6-1) senior used strong defense shortly after the match’s beginning, when Bruno was in on a high-crotch shot. However, Ramos broke the hold and got possession of Bruno’s head to score a 2-point takedown.

After finishing the first period with 18 seconds of riding time, Ramos once again had a headlock but could not score before a stalemate was called. He then got in on Bruno’s left leg for two points before the end of the second.

During his final period in Carver-Hawkeye, the senior used a right-leg shot for a takedown for what turned out to be his last 2 points. He nearly flipped his opponent onto his back in the final 20 seconds and rode out the period to finish the decision.

After the horn sounded, Ramos lay on the mat before getting to his feet and entertaining the Iowa crowd one more time, waving his goodbye to a standing ovation before jogging into the tunnel, ending his 34-0 career mark on his home mat.

But that wasn’t the end of Ramos’ impact on Sunday.

Brody Grothus described his match with Eric Grajales as a blur. In the midst of his 17-14 overtime decision over the Wolverine 149-pounder, the sophomore said he looked toward the Iowa bench and everything was a haze besides the few faces he saw — those of his parents and the face of Ramos.

“Tony Ramos is the one of the biggest leaders in our room, that’s no secret. Along with Derek St. John … Tony Ramos, he’s vocal, he also leads by example,” Grothus said. “That guy is the epitome of an Iowa wrestler.”

Ramos’ head coach echoed the Davenport Assumption product’s sentiments. In the week leading up to Sunday’s dual, Tom Brands noted that Ramos has contributed to his program in more ways than on the mat.

“He’s big when the lights are on, and he’s big in [the wrestling room] too,” Brands said.

• • •

When people think of the most electrifying moments in Carver in the recent years, at least three of those are thanks to Ramos. There’s the massive upset over Jordan Oliver during the 2011-12 season, his sophomore year. There’s the pin over Jordan Conaway of Penn State one year later. And this season, the pin against Jimmy Gulibon of the Nittany Lions sent Carver into a frenzy. The Glenbard North product has caused some of the loudest moments inside the arena, not just limited to wrestling.

“If I were to think about Ramos, those are the things I would think about,” said Iowa legend Brent Metcalf, the last Hawkeye to go undefeated at Carver. “You say, ‘He’s never lost,’ well, of course he’s never lost. It’s because you remember those [matches].”

Those victories are some of the most prominent instances of Ramos igniting the crowd, but certainly aren’t the only times he has done so. The Carol Stream, Ill., native isn’t only a wrestler, he ‘s also an entertainer. He’s known for giving the Hawkeye faithful a show during every bout, both while he is wrestling and after the match ends.

“Some people say you should just walk off the mat with your hand raised and get out of there,” Ramos said. “The fans like to interact; they like to have a good time, too. They’re there to see wrestling, but they’re also there for a show. That’s what they’re coming for.”

That attitude is one of the things a large number of fans, along with Metcalf, will remember about Ramos. He has managed to captivate an audience on a grand stage — a venue Metcalf, a two-time NCAA champion, said hasn’t been matched anywhere he has wrestled — because of both his showmanship and winning ways.

For the 133-pounder, the “big three” matches are great, but they aren’t Ramos’ favorite. He said they are awesome and something he will always remember, but he said his favorite is the first time he stepped on the Iowa mat — Ramos knew he had made it.

“My favorite moment that I probably remember the best is the first match I ever wrestled at Carver, against Iowa State,” Ramos said. “It’s something that I had been striving for and a goal I’ve been working toward [my] whole life.”

• • •

While the decision over Bruno cemented his legacy in Iowa’s home arena, Ramos’ legacy outside has yet to be completed. He will carry the 34-0 mark with him, but has yet to reach one of his goals — a national championship.

His unblemished record puts him in a club with the likes of Metcalf and Brands, among others, but the two-time All-American still has work to do. He dropped a 7-4 decision to Ohio State’s Logan Stieber in the first-place match of the NCAA championships during his junior year and finished third the season before.

His home career over, he will wrestle at venues with fans slanted against him and his team and also at neutral sites come the postseason.

After the match on Sunday, Ramos spoke about his time in front of the fans whom he loves and who love him in return. But it was four days before his last dual that he discussed his legacy, and what he wants to accomplish in the short time he has left in the black and gold singlet.

“I want people to remember me for my wrestling, tough, took on all challenges,” Ramos said. “I want them to remember me for being able to talk to the fans, interact with the kids, things like that.

“But most of all, one of my biggest goals is to win a national title, so I haven’t done that yet. I have one more chance to go out there and win and have people remember I also won a national title. It wasn’t just second, third, he wrestled hard, he was tough. He was also a national champ.”


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