Dec. 2, 2011
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 -- Possibly the best individual battle of the young Big Ten Conference wrestling season will unfold Friday inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena when Iowa's Tony Ramos and B.J. Futrell of Illinois go head-to-head at 133 pounds.
The two natives of the state of Illinois have competed against each other since they were five years old. In college they have split two bouts: Futrell won 9-6 at the 2010 Midlands Championships, and Ramos won 6-2 at the 2011 Big Ten Championships.
"It's good to wrestle guys like this, especially early in the year," Ramos said. "You see where you're at. I have to control the match from the beginning like I did at Big Tens; I can't let it get out of line quick -- kind of like at Midlands. (Futrell) is a quick kid. You have to control the pace, you have to get on him right away and get to the legs and score."
The wrestling "experts" expect a close battle as well. Futrell is ranked second in the nation by Amateur Wrestling News and W.I.N. magazine, and third by InterMat; Ramos is ranked third by Amateur Wrestling News and W.I.N. magazine and second by InterMat.
For Ramos, the victory over Futrell at the Big Ten meet, which gave him third place in the conference, was a major boost to his psyche.
"I have wrestled him since we were five or six, and I don't think I ever beat him (prior to college)," Ramos said. "I finally got over that hump. It was a big win."
The two have not met since. Futrell, a redshirt junior from Park Forest, Ill., went on to place eighth at the NCAA Championships and become an All-American. Ramos, a redshirt sophomore from Carol Stream, Ill., went 4-2 during his first trip to nationals and did not place. This season, Futrell is 9-0 with six falls, two technical falls and a major decision; Ramos is 8-0 with three technical falls, two falls, two major decisions and a 4-1 decision over teammate Tyler Clark in the finals of the Lindenwood Open.
Futrell competed at the NWCA All-Star Classic on Nov. 21 in Tempe, Ariz., where he dropped an 8-7 decision to consensus No. 1 ranked Jordan Oliver of Oklahoma State. That result does not count against Futrell's season record.
"You're not going to get me to say what needs to happen, because everybody knows in a wrestling match what needs to happen for our guy to prevail," UI head coach Tom Brands said. "We know he's capable. If you ask the same question, (Illinois) will answer it the same way. It's going to be a battle of wills and who stays where they're best and does what they're best at more often. We can't wait, we can't hang out. We have to go; it's go time."
This will be the Big Ten opener for both schools. Iowa, at 3-0 overall, is on top of many team rankings. Illinois (6-0) is rated anywhere from 7-10.
"Illinois feels good about itself, and they're a good team," Brands said. "That's a dangerous combination. We have to be ready because I know they're excited to come in here."
The Illini are coached by Jim Heffernan, a four-time All-American and 1986 national champion for the Hawkeyes. They are assisted by another UI four-time All-American, Mark Perry. Perry was the first Brands-coached individual to win a national championship for the Hawkeyes (2007). He successfully defended his title in 2008.
A match of this magnitude in early December is just as significant as one in February, Ramos said.
"Everything is important," he said. "It's a Big Ten match for Big Ten seeding. When it comes down to the Big Ten Tournament, it's going to be big. There are a lot of tough guys at 133, it's a loaded weight class, so it will be big to get this win."
UI and USA wrestling fans are encouraged to arrive early at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Friday. They will be able to pick up Olympic Trials promotional items and watch the United States women's national team perform a freestyle wrestling demonstration before the 7 p.m. (CT) dual.
Fans who purchased 2011-12 Hawkeye wrestling season tickets and the VIP Package for the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials may pick up the limited-edition Dan Gable Olympic bobblehead beginning at 5:30 p.m.