IOWA CITY - Tony Ramos had his hand raised for the final time in front of the University of Iowa home crowd.
He used that hand to show his appreciation, waving to the fans providing the standing ovation. As he stood to soak it in, it seemed as if he didn't want to leave the mat. After all, Ramos spent four years energizing the Carver-Hawkeye Arena fans, who instantly reciprocated the enthusiasm and excitement in his 34-0 career here.
“I love competing in front of these fans,” Ramos said. “They are great fans. You want to call them friends because they are great people. They are always there, backing you up.”
Ramos and Derek St. John closed their careers at Carver-Hawkeye Arena with wins, helping third-ranked Iowa to a 26-6 win over No. 11 Michigan during Senior Day on Sunday. Ramos recorded 6-1 decision No. 17 Rossi Bruno at 133 pounds, capping an unbeaten career at home.
After his match, Ramos posed for pictures with fans in the tunnel and on the arena floor. He remained to sign autographs for young fans before savoring a moment with family, posing for pictures with them on the court. The wins, the memorable moments and the way he repeatedly ignited crowds is just part of how Ramos feels about this building, which also houses the Dan Gable Wrestling Complex. It has been where he dedicated much of his last four years.
“It’s going to be hard for me to leave this place,” Ramos said. “It’s special in a lot of ways. I met my (future) wife here. I met my coaches here. I met a lot of friends here. I got my butt kicked upstairs a lot, so I grew as a wrestler.”
Iowa Coach Tom Brands has been in Ramos' shoes, going unbeaten in CHA during his college career. he was able to put the accomplishment in perspective.
“When you try to win, you train like that and live your life like that, good things happen,” Brands said. “He’s been able to defend the home front.”
Ramos said he tried to downplay the feat in the week leading up to the dual. The topic was unavoidable since people continued to mention it. Sunday served as a slight relief, allowing him to move forward. Ramos noted Brands was also undefeated in four seasons at CHA, and two-time NCAA champion Brent Metcalf did it for three seasons.
“To me, I was trying not to make it a big thing,” Ramos said. “It is a big thing. It was big shoes to fill and it’s a good class of people to be in.
Even during that final ovation, Ramos wasn't satisfied with the results. It paled in comparison to his overtime tiebreaker win over Oklahoma State's Jordan Oliver or his pins in consecutive home duals against national champion Penn State. Ramos wanted to go out with more of a bang.
“I would have liked to do it in a little bit better fashion,” Ramos said. “I got the job done and the win.”
This day it was sophomore 149-pounder Brody Grothus that stirred Hawkeye fans into a frenzy. Grothus snapped a three-match losing streak with a wild 17-14 overtime win over ninth-ranked Eric Grajales. The 14th-ranked Grothus scored two nearfall points and escape in the first tiebreaker session.
“I think in that match I did a lot of good things, but I also did a lot of bad things in the same breath," Grothus said. "You take away the positive and found a way to win.”
Grothus said he wanted to start fast with a furious pace. It resulted in a 14-point first period with Grajales ahead, 9-5. Only one other complete match - a 16-0 technical fall by Iowa 174-pounder Mike Evans - had more total points.
“I love matches like that,” Grothus said. “After, you are dead tired, but so is that guy. Coming out on top is what makes it all worth it.”
Grothus kept battling from the early deficit, firing up the crowd. He became steadier, scoring a reversal and nearfall points in the second and third periods.
“That was a pretty loud building in his match,” said Brands, noting Grothus was better on top as the match progressed. “He dodged some bullets but he also learned as the match went on, too.”
Grajales struck back with an escape late and takedown in the closing moments to force overtime. After a scoreless sudden victory, Grothus used a power-half to turn Grajales for two in the first 30-second tiebreaker periods and held on for the win. The intense atmosphere made much of the match a blur, but he saw his family and Ramos in a moment of clarity, receiving a boost.
“Tony Ramos is one of the biggest leaders in our room,” said Grothus, noting that his vocal style complements Derek St. John’s lead by example approach. “(Ramos) is the epitome of an Iowa wrestler. When you look over there and see him behind you and he’s on your team, You want to be like Tony Ramos, so that is what pushed me over the edge.”
NCAA Champion St. John finished his career at home with a 3-1 win over No. 14 Brian Murphy, scoring the decisive takedown in the final minute. The three-time All-American and third-ranked 157-pounder ended up 31-1 all-time at CHA.
Iowa (13-2, 6-1 Big Ten) split two other matches of top-10 ranked wrestlers. No. 4-rated Nick Moore used three takedowns to drop No. 6 Dan Yates, 8-2. Heavyweight went Michigan's way. Second-ranked Adam Coon scored his second win over Iowa's No. 3 Bobby Telford, posting a win on riding time advantage in a second overtime tiebreaker.
“Bob Telford out-wrestled the guy,” Brands said. “I’ll take our guy every time there.”
Telford was very offensive, penetrating to Coon's legs regularly. He was unable to finish for a takedown. In the tiebreaker, he allowed Coon to escape to quickly, even though it was out in seconds himself.
“We were in on the leg three times,” Brands said. “That guy didn’t even come close to us.
"Bottom line is ‘so what?’ ... Now we have to convert. Now, let’s convert and put that match away and put it where it belongs and that is a ‘W’ in our column.”
Iowa won eight of 10 bouts, receiving decisions from red-shirt freshmen Cory Clark (125) and Sammy Brooks (184) and sophomore Nathan Burak at 197. Brooks wrestled in place of fourth-ranked senior Ethen Lofthouse, who was honored with Ramos, St. John, Tomas Lira, Nick Trizzino and Joe DuCharme after the dual.
Iowa travels to Lehigh on Friday. Michigan fell to 9-4 overall and 5-2 in the conference.
#3 IOWA 26, #11 Michigan 6
125 - Cory Clark (IA) dec. #19 Conor Youtsey (UM), 4-1;
133 - #3 Tony Ramos (IA) dec. #19 Rossi Bruno (UM), 6-1;
141 - #13 Steve Dutton (UM) dec. #9 Josh Dziewa (IA), 3-2;
149 - #12 Brody Grothus (IA) dec. #7 Eric Grajales (UM), 17-14;
157 - #2 Derek St. John (IA) dec. #14 Brian Murphy (UM), 3-1;
165 - #4 Nick Moore (IA) dec. #6 Dan Yates (UM), 8-2;
174 - #5 Mike Evans (IA) tech. fall Collin Zeerip (UM), 16-0;
184 - Sammy Brooks (IA) dec. #16 Domenic Abounader (UM), 9-4;
197 - #16 Nathan Burak (IA) dec. Chris Heald (UM), 4-1;
285 - #2 Adam Coon (UM) dec. #3 Bobby Telford (IA), 3-3**riding time advantage following TB2.