Feb. 8, 2014
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By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Thirty-three times Tony Ramos has walked off Mediacom Mat in Carver-Hawkeye Arena with his hand raised in victory. But he has meant much more to the University of Iowa wrestling program than a spotless record at home.
“The fans are there to see wrestling, but they are also coming to see a show,” Ramos said.
Combined, the Hawkeye “big three” have put on quite a performance since 2011 with a home record of 86-7. Together they have earned seven All-America awards, three trips to the NCAA finals, and one NCAA championship.
“You’re seeing three guys that rub off the right way with our young guys,” UI head coach Tom Brands said. “It’s not just about wrestling matches, it’s how you train, how you get ready to go.”
“You’re seeing three guys that rub off the right way with our young guys. It’s not just about wrestling matches, it’s how you train, how you get ready to go.”
UI wrestling coach
It is easy to see what the seniors have met on the mat, but how is their significance gauged on the Hawkeye underclassmen?
“You copy what they do; you work hard like they do and when the next freshmen come in you are welcoming to them,” said freshman Broc Berge, who has tangled with Lofthouse a time or two in the Dan Gable Wrestling Complex.
Freshman Brandon Sorensen has competed at 149 and 157 and frequently trains with St. John, the defending national champion.
“You try to follow in their footsteps, keep working hard, keep attacking,” he said. “Stay true to the things they have been doing.”
Phillip Laux is in his first season in the room after winning two individual Iowa high school state championships for Iowa City West in 2011 and 2012. He won his first 23 matches this season competing unattached.
“I learned to come in and fight every day. Nothing is a given and hard work is going to beat anything,” said Laux, who frequently drills against Ramos. “You learn from them and take their attributes — each one brings something a little different to the table, so you take that into the future.”
Brands acknowledges the accolades of Ramos, St. John, and Lofthouse, but says there is still a hunger in all three to finish strong. After this season, their names, so familiar in wrestling households around the country, will be replaced. Candidates for substitutes will be Laux, Sorensen, and Berge.
“I try to go in there and fight and give him the best feel I can,” Berge said of sparring with Lofthouse.
“I don’t back down and I try to go at him, too,” Sorensen said of working with St. John. “Maybe I have made him work a little harder for that shot.”
When the sun sets on one career, it rises for another. But make no mistake, whatever success future Hawkeyes have will be in part because of things they learned from Ramos, St. John, and Lofthouse.
The words Brands uses to describe Ramos can be exchanged when talking about the other two departing All-Americans as well.
“There is a different kind of toughness for all of them,” Brands said. “(They are) big when the lights are on, but they are big in (the practice room), too.”
Iowa and Michigan have a competitive history, with the Hawkeyes leading the series 29-25-1. Under Brands, Iowa is 6-0 against the Wolverines. Sunday’s dual is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. (CT).