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Hawkeye wrestlers fancy themselves a game of Uno

BY CODY GOODWIN | FEBRUARY 20, 2014 5:00 AM

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Road trips aren’t always easy on the Iowa wrestlers. The buses and planes aren’t always comfortable. The hours traveled can add up to a lot sometimes. The second-ranked Iowa wrestling team has journeyed to places as close as Ames and as far as Bethlehem, Pa.

As such, boredom often arises. But the wrestlers compensate, be it through reading for classes, or watching movies, or playing games — like the card game Uno. Plenty of the Iowa wrestlers and coaches play the classic card game during the longer road trips as another, usually competitive, form of entertainment.

“It’s something that started on road trips, I want to say, my sophomore year,” senior Tony Ramos said. “I think that’s the first time I played.”

The way Ramos remembers it, the wrestlers had to play their own games and win in order to play with the team’s coaches. “It was like they were a step above us, and we had to win the rookie games first,” he said.

The team doesn’t just play the game on road trips, either. Ramos and fellow senior Ethen Lofthouse said the wrestlers often get together during their free time to play the game.

In addition to playing with the game’s original set of rules, the wrestlers added a few of their own to make each hand more interesting than normal. For example, if one wrestler finishes with the highest score one round, he isn’t allowed to talk during the next round.

“That was pretty hard for a lot of us,” Ramos said and laughed. “And if you talk, you have to draw two [cards]. It gets pretty crazy.”

Of course, the game tends to bring out each wrestler’s inner competitor. Ramos said cards are often thrown — “There’s a lot of arguing and screaming that goes on,” he said.

Lofthouse said there are plenty of other rules that add to the pugnacious atmosphere created by the game.

The scene can be scary or uncomfortable to those who aren’t used to the wrestlers’ competitive zeal over a simple card game. As assistant wrestling coach Ben Berhow put it with a grin, “I try to stay away from that, man.”

Still, there seems to be a practice-room debate as to which wrestler is the best Uno player. Both Lofthouse and Ramos admitted that the coaches — as well as former Iowa wrestler Mark Ironside — have some serious skill with respect to the game. After all, “the Brands taught us,” Lofthouse said, before adding: “They definitely take pride in their Uno game. They’re good.”

But when certain wrestlers are asked which of their teammates are the best, different answers arise. Ramos said he wins a lot of hands, and added that Lofthouse wins his fair share, too.

Lofthouse gave a different variation.

“I hurt Ramos in that game,” he said with a smile. “I make it so that when he gets out, he leaves the house.”


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