Iowa's Ramos claims first conference crown

BY CODY GOODWIN | MARCH 10, 2014 5:00 AM

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MADISON, Wis. — That Iowa’s Tony Ramos won his first Big Ten individual title on Sunday afternoon wasn’t a surprise. He was, after all, the top seed at 133 pounds. A first-place finish was expected.

What was surprising — and almost impressive, in a way — was how the senior Ramos was able to secure his conference crown.

Ramos beat Wisconsin’s Tyler Graff in the 133-pound finals in the Kohl Center by way of a 2-1 decision, becoming the 110th Big Ten champion in Iowa history. And in the midst of all the pushing and shoving and defensive scrambles was the fact that Ramos won without scoring a takedown.

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“Yeah, that might be different for the fans,” he said.

A native of Carol Stream, Ill., Ramos thought little of the fact that he won because of a riding-time point — which was both accumulated and secured in the bout’s final period.

Instead, Ramos oozed confidence and relief. He said after his match that in addition to winning a conference title — something that has proved elusive each of the last two seasons — he secured a mental edge over Graff.

Graff and Ramos have done battle four times in their college careers. Graff claimed the first bout between them, only to watch Ramos win the next three.

That kind of familiarity can sometimes cause matches to be much lower scoring and aesthetically boring. They both know of each other’s attacks and counters, of their strengths and weaknesses.

For Ramos, the familiarity led to an adjustment. During his third-period ride, where he kept Graff on the mat using almost everything in his top-position arsenal, Ramos made a slight change that made a big difference.

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“If I’m going to ride high like I normally do, yeah, he’s going to reverse me like he did at nationals [last year],” Ramos said. “I knew going into it that I had to adjust, drop my hips back, ride the ankle, ride the leg.

“It’s more in his head now. He’ll think, ‘[Tony] can ride me, he can take me down, I can’t score on him.’ He doesn’t know what he’s going to do at nationals, and that’s a big thing to put in his head going into that.”

Ramos’s victory exemplified what Iowa wrestling coach Tom Brands preached prior to the Big Ten championships. Brands emphasized that his wrestlers needed to win the close matches if the team was to succeed in a tournament setting.

“He’s finding ways to win,” Brands said. “Now it’s on to the thing that everybody in America is shooting for: the national championship. He’s in one of 10 weights. He’s got a Big Ten championship; now, let’s keep adding to it.”

And to do that, Ramos will more than likely have to beat the two guys who have beaten him this season — Northern Iowa’s Joe Colon and Edinboro’s AJ Schopp, each of whom won their respective conference championships this season.

It’s a task Ramos is more than ready to take on — it’s the goal of all three wrestlers, of course.

“This isn’t the end of the season,” Schopp told Flowrestling after beating Ramos back in December. “It ends in March.”

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