Feb. 18, 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.
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Tony Ramos knows his odds of winning a popularity contest in Stillwater, Okla., are slim. Make that next to impossible...and he loves it.
"I'm excited," said Ramos, a 133-pound wrestler for the University of Iowa. "I'm hoping a lot of people are going to show up. I know no one there likes me, I know that for sure, so it's going to be a lot of fun."
The fourth-ranked Hawkeyes (13-3 dual record) are the No. 2 seed at the NWCA/Cliff Keen National Duals Mat Mayhem. They face third-seeded Minnesota (12-3) on Sunday, Feb. 19, at 2 p.m. (CT), in Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stillwater. The other semifinal is Oklahoma State (14-0) against Illinois (16-2). The championship dual will be contested at 6 p.m.
Ramos enters the weekend with a record of 24-2 and five straight victories. If he happens to hear a jeer or catcall in Oklahoma, it is probably because of his 4-3 overtime victory against top-ranked Cowboy Jordan Oliver on Jan. 7 in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Since then, Ramos has gone 7-1 with two falls and two technical falls; Oliver has gone 8-0 with four falls and two technical falls.
"I have tough matches coming up, so I have to work hard all week and get my body and mind ready, and get everything on the right page," Ramos said.
"I get to wrestle some darn good competition. For me, there are three opponents that are going to battle, no matter who I wrestle. That's what you train for, that's what you get ready for. You have to beat them all to win it all. You have to be ready to wrestle everyone, even if you don't know how to pronounce their name, or if you have wrestled them every day in the wrestling room. It's always fun to wrestle guys you have had hard scraps with."
UI 125-pound wrestler
An Iowa-Oklahoma State rematch is not guaranteed. The Cowboys needed a criteria point to break a tie and win the dual, 17-16, in Iowa City. The Hawkeyes benefitted from a major decision by Nick Moore at 157 pounds and a fall by Mike Evans at 165 to defeat Minnesota, 19-17, on Jan. 29 in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Iowa defeated Illinois, 20-13, at home on Dec. 2.
UI head coach Tom Brands adds another piece to his lineup puzzle when junior All-American Grant Gambrall moves from 197 pounds to 184, where he finished third in the NCAA Championships a year ago. While at 197, Gambrall compiled a record of 7-7, but lost four in a row and five of his last six matches.
"I'm very excited," Gambrall said of a return to the mat for the first time since Jan. 29. "Sometimes it stinks just training and not having the competition aspect of it. You want to get out there in front of fans in a match setting and kick some butt."
Gambrall's first opponent is expected to be Kevin Steinhaus of Minnesota. Last season Steinhaus defeated Gambrall 5-4 in the dual and 4-1 at the Big Ten Championships.
"I owe him a couple," Gambrall said. "He's been on my radar since I planned on going back down to 184."
Three weight classes at Mat Mayhem feature four ranked wrestlers: 125, 133 and 174. At 125, McDonough is rated No. 1 and Minnesota's Zach Sanders is No. 2; four of the top eight in the country will wrestle at 133, and four of the top nine will compete at 174. Five other weight classes have three nationally ranked wrestlers.
McDonough is 5-0 lifetime against Sanders, including a 7-1 decision in the January dual, and he is 2-0 against Morrison. The lone loss of the season for McDonough was 11-7 in overtime against Illinois' Jesse Delgado in December.
"I get to wrestle some darn good competition," McDonough said. "For me, there are three opponents that are going to battle, no matter who I wrestle. That's what you train for, that's what you get ready for. You have to beat them all to win it all. You have to be ready to wrestle everyone, even if you don't know how to pronounce their name, or if you have wrestled them every day in the wrestling room. It's always fun to wrestle guys you have had hard scraps with."
The Hawkeyes won the last three national dual tournaments in which they have participated (2008, '09, '10). Brands is readying this group like any other time in the season, all the while understanding that the stakes have been raised.
"This is a peak," he said. "It's a step above, and we have to be ready. It's a national championship now; we went from a regional (last Sunday in Ames) into the Final Four, so it's good stuff."
For a Hawkeye wrestler, there are no places in the country more unreceptive than Ames, Iowa, and Stillwater, Okla. Iowa went 2-0 last week in Ames, and the objective is to equal that record in Stillwater.
"Stillwater is a good place for wrestling," Brands said. "Their tradition rivals our tradition. Going into that environment, we have to get ready for a hostile team that might not be the home team, but nonetheless, we have to be ready."