The Best of: Oliver Twisted

June 29, 2012

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide. Today’s installment is a part of a “Best of” series being drawn from the 2011-12 athletics year.

IOWA CITY, Iowa — One unbeaten streak remained Saturday when No. 1 Iowa and No. 2 Oklahoma State met on Mediacom Mat inside a packed and loud Carver-Hawkeye Arena: Hawkeye 133-pound wrestler Tony Ramos extended his record at home to 12-0.

And it stole the roar from the Cowboys’ 17-16 (criteria) team decision, ending Iowa’s 84-match unbeaten streak.

Ramos upset previously No. 1 and defending national champion Jordan Oliver, 4-3, in overtime. Oliver entered the night with a record of 10-0 with 10 falls. The Cowboy junior had won 39 consecutive bouts and only two of his opponents this season made it past the opening three minutes.

“Give Ramos a lot of credit,” UI head coach Tom Brands said. “It’s persistence, and that’s what Ramos is about. He was coming off a loss (6-4 in overtime to Devin Carter of Virginia Tech in the finals of the Midlands Championships on Dec. 30), so he righted a wrong, so to speak.”

There was no scoring during a first period that saw Ramos fight out of a shot with 1:36 left. Oliver had the right leg of Ramos, but Ramos got his foot to the mat and broke free when Oliver grabbed for Ramos’s head in a cradle attempt. As the match wore on, Ramos became more comfortable and pressed the action, shooting twice in a 35-second span.

Oliver rolled out for an escape early in the second. Ramos was in on two more shots, and nearly took Oliver down with a cross-directional attempt to the Cowboys’ right leg with 13 seconds left. A tiring Oliver glanced to clock and dodged a bullet — grasping to a 1-0 lead heading into the final two minutes of regulation.

A key in the match was a caution on Oliver to begin the third. Then the Cowboy was warned for stalling, 28 seconds before Ramos escaped to tie the score. With 22 seconds remaining, Ramos finished the only takedown of the match to go ahead, 3-1. Another caution on Oliver followed two seconds later, and he escaped with six seconds left to make it 3-2 in favor of Ramos. But Oliver compiled 62 seconds of riding time to force overtime. Ramos chose down, and a third caution on Oliver resulted in a point for the Hawkeye, giving him a 4-3 edge. Oliver rode out Ramos, and Ramos rode out Oliver, and bedlam ensued as a full house of 15,400 voiced their delight.

“It was loud. I guess that’s what everyone was saying,” Ramos said. “I try to block it all out. I had to go out there and wrestle and go and do what I do best.”

“This place knows wrestling,” Brands said. “The entertainment factor was OK, but you don’t get your money’s worth unless you come out with a W.”

In this case, a colossal individual W by Ramos had to suffice.

The streak for Ramos began with a 14-5 major decision over Brandon Jones of Iowa State on Dec. 3, 2010. He is 5-0 at home this season, with a big, Big Ten win — 13-5 major decision over returning All-American B.J. Futrell of Illinois — topped only by Saturday’s signature victory against Oliver.

“I wrestled smart, but I wasn’t getting my offense,” Ramos said. “I got in on the legs — if the first time you don’t finish, you tell yourself, the second time you’re going to finish, the third time you’re going to finish, the fourth time you’re going to finish. You have to keep attacking, even if you’re not going to score the first couple times.”

Ramos showed he was more prepared to go nine-minutes as Oliver was noticeably winded during the latter stages. After the dual, Ramos was looking for ways to widen the gap if he meets Oliver again — possibly at the NCAA Championships in St. Louis.

“I gave him too much respect in the first period,” Ramos said. “Second period I got in on a leg and didn’t finish. Third period I got back in on it; I have to get out quicker on bottom. I have to finish takedowns.”

Ramos had enough in his arsenal and enough gas in the tank Saturday to come out on top. But there is never much time to celebrate in the Big Ten. The league boasts some of the nation’s top 133-pounders in Ramos, Futrell, Ohio State freshman Logan Stieber, Purdue sophomore Cashe Quiroga, Minnesota sophomore David Thorn, Michigan senior Zac Stevens, and Nebraska junior Ridge Kiley.