March 19, 2014
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By DARREN MILLER
OKLAHOMA CITY — An animated Tony Ramos and a more reserved Tom Brands answered questions from national media Wednesday at a pre-NCAA wrestling championships news conference in Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Ramos, a senior 133-pounder, boasted that the Hawkeyes opened eyes of fans and media by nipping at Penn State’s heel during the Big Ten Conference Tournament on March 8-9 in Madison, Wis. Brands wasn’t completely on board with the assessment by Ramos.
“I think we opened up a lot of eyes to fans and maybe more media,” Ramos said of Iowa’s runner-up finish by 5 ½ points to the Nittany Lions. “Penn State and Minnesota knew we could compete with them, but I don’t know if the media and the fans thought we could.”
Moments later, a reporter informed Brands of the comments by Ramos.
“I don’t know how many eyes we opened at the Big Ten,” Brands said. “Not to be in disagreement, but Tony Ramos talks a lot bigger game than I talk — he’s a pretty confident guy. Opening eyes at the Big Ten would have been slamming the door on Sunday in that final round. We were close, but close doesn’t get it done, either.”
“I don’t know how many eyes we opened at the Big Ten. Not to be in disagreement, but Tony Ramos talks a lot bigger game than I talk — he’s a pretty confident guy. Opening eyes at the Big Ten would have been slamming the door on Sunday in that final round. We were close, but close doesn’t get it done, either.”
UI wrestling coach
Where Ramos and Brands concur is that 10 Hawkeyes have to accumulate plenty on points on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday to win an NCAA championship.
“We have to do our job and everyone has to wrestle,” Ramos said. “It’s going to take 10 guys to win the team title. You can’t do it with nine or eight. Everyone has to be ready to go.”
“Tony Ramos is confident, our team is confident, we have to be tough for three days and that’s how you win tournaments,” Brands said. “There is no room for a letup, so we have to be strong in six sessions of wrestling.”
Ramos, the No. 3 seed at 133, was one of five student-athletes in the pre-championships news conference. He was joined by Tony Nelson of Minnesota (285 pounds), Kendric Maple of Oklahoma (149), Chris Perry of Oklahoma State (174), and David Taylor of Penn State (165). Brands was one of five coaches who took the stage after the news conference by the wrestlers. Other coaches represented were John Smith (Oklahoma State), Cael Sanderson (Penn State), J Robinson (Minnesota), and Mark Cody (Oklahoma).
Brands said the Hawkeyes’ regular-season schedule, that included dual meets against 11 teams ranked in the top 21, prepared them well for the month of March.
“It’s exciting when you’re part of a program that’s trying to be the best and you’re challenged every week in the Big Ten,” Brands said. “Then you go outside the Big Ten and go to Stillwater (Okla.), Edinboro (Pa.), or Ames, Iowa, or somewhere out west that is going to try to knock you off as well. I think it’s very exciting and it hardens our guys to the battle and we love it.”
Ramos, who has placed third and second in the nation at 133 pounds the past two seasons, repeated his claim that winning a conference championship two weeks ago will make him more relaxed and aggressive in Oklahoma City. He compared how he feels now to the end of 2012 when he slipped to the back side of the bracket and defeated Devin Carter of Virginia Tech, 8-3, before pinning Chris Dardanes of Minnesota for third.
“If I wrestle open and I don’t wrestle tentative and I’m not tight, that’s when my best wrestling happens,” Ramos said. “I want to run through the tournament, I don’t just want to win. I want to dominate everyone in every match. I still think I can against anyone I wrestle, doesn’t matter if it’s (top-seeded Joe) Colon (of Northern Iowa), (second-seeded A.J.) Schopp (of Edinboro), (Purdue’s Cashe) Quiroga, (Oklahoma State’s Jon) Morrison, I don’t care who it is. I’m that confident in my offense and my wrestling that I think I can do that.”
Session I of the NCAA Championships begins Thursday at 11 a.m. (CT) with pigtail and first-round bouts. Action resumes at 6 p.m. with the championship second round and the first round of wrestlebacks.