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(Editor’s Note: On May 31 and June 1, USA Wrestling hosted Phase I of the World Team Trials in Madison, Wisc., where 12 of the 24 spots on the 2014 World Team was filled in either men’s or women’s freestyle. Six Greco berths will be filled June 13 in Daytona Beach, Fla., while the remaining six spots over the three styles will be determined during the Junior/Cadet Nationals, July 19-24, in Fargo, N.D. In honor of this seven weeks of World Team Trials, WIN is providing features on those who have qualified to compete in Uzebekistan in September.)
By Mike Finn
Tony Ramos sees the world differently than any other wrestler … and know one knows that more than his former college coach Tom Brands.
Brands pointed out that Ramos showed that during the World Team Trials Championship Series in Madison, Wisc., May 31, when after winning the Challenge tournament earlier in the day won a pair of championship matches over U.S. Open champ Sam Hazewinkel, 4-0 and 5-4.
“One time he’s wearing blue socks with a red singlet, then wearing red socks with a blue singlet,” Brands said of his wrestler who finished his college career at Iowa in March with an NCAA championship at 133 pounds in March; two months before the native of Carol Stream, Ill., chose to cut even more weight … and win the 125.5-pound championship at this year’s World Team Trials in the Alliant Energy Center.
“He’s an art major and wired just a little bit different. He made the choice to continue to compete because it extends his longevity. Plus he’s a showman. He craves that spotlight. When you are a competitor, there is no better life.”
So when Ramos came to Brands after the U.S. Open, which was held April 18-19, and told his coach that he wanted to compete in Phase I of the World Team Trials, Brands was not surprised.
“When you combine the marketing and self-promotion and the things that he’s about on the big stage and all of a sudden it was probably an easy choice because what’s going to keep you relevant the longest,” Brands said. “Is it winning a national title, then go off into the sunset? Well that sunset is going to come pretty quick.”
It didn’t matter that Ramos had not competed in freestyle since 2011 when he represented the U.S. at the Junior World Cup at 132 pounds or in 2009 when finished fifth at 121 pounds at the Junior World Championships in Ankara, Turkey.
“Lot of people were asking, ‘Why don’t you wrestle freestyle, why don’t you wrestle freestyle?’ ” said Ramos, who earned a spot in the Trials because of his NCAA championship and defeated three foes in the Challenge tourney … including a 2-0 upset of 2013 World Team member Angel Escobedo in the semifinals. “I wanted to focus on a national title, then a World title, another World title, then Olympic title.
“It’s wrestling and I think freestyle is my best.”
Ramos said he thought about taking the rest of the year off until he spoke to his fiancée Megan Eskew, a former volleyball player at the University of Iowa.
“During the U.S. Open, my fiancée and I were watching it,” said Ramos, who will marry Eskew on July 19. “I was thinking about doing it but as soon as she said, ‘You need to do this.’ I said, ‘Alright, let’s do this.’ So I thank her a lot too.”
Ramos, who weighed 145 pounds at the time of his decision, could have wrestled at 134 pounds, which will be determined July 24 in Fargo, N.D., during Phase II of the World Team Trials. But the former Hawkeye said he had Olympic dreams.
“I didn’t know if I wanted to make the (weight) drop or not,” said Ramos, adding that he had not wrestled at 125 pounds in four years. “But I’m a competitor and when you see people winning who you know you can beat, it drives you even harder.
“Why wrestle at something you’re only going to do for three years. You have to go for it all.”
Ramos, who remembered Hazewinkel as a wrestling camp counselor when he was in eighth grade, said he also got tired of listening to recent U.S. representatives on the Worlds and Olympic teams.
Since Henry Cejudo won an Olympic gold medal at the 2008 Games in Beijing, China, the United States was a combined 9-7 and medal-less in ensuing World/Olympic championships.
(In 2009, Danny Felix was 0-1 at the Worlds. In 2010, Obe Blanc finished 2-1 and ninth at the Worlds. In 2011, Nick Simmons was 4-2 and claimed fifth at the Worlds. In 2012, Hazewinkel went 0-1 at the London Olympics. And in 2013, Escobedo finished 3-2 and fifth at the Worlds.)
“I’m done with all the Senior (wrestlers),” Ramos said. “They’ve had all their chances. It’s time for the new guys. I’ve watched Simmons and Hazewinkel and Escobedo. All they talked about was winning a (World/Olympic) medal. They were satisfied with just winning a medal.
“If you think going overseas and winning a silver or bronze medal would be satisfying, you’re crazy. It’s all about winning gold. It’s not about just winning a medal. You’ve got to want it all.”