DES MOINES – Tony Ramos’ first two matches at the National Championship
were brief. He pinned Nick Wilcox (Bloomsburg) in just under 2 minutes. It took him
just over a minute to do the same with North Carolina’s Joseph Ward.
But Friday night, the returning all-American punched his ticket to Saturday
night’s finals with a 10-minute match and a 6-4 sudden victory against Wisconsin’s Tyler
Graff in the 2nd overtime.
Getting taken down in the first period, Ramos got a late escape and ended the first
period trailing 2-1. Graff reversed him in the second period to take a 4-1 lead. But a late
escape cut the deficit to two points.
Graff seemed to back up throughout the first two stanzas, drawing a stalling
warning from the official. The crowd, saturated with Hawkeye fans, became frustrated
at what they perceived as Graff’s stalling.
Ramos did not let it bother him.
“It comes with maturity, but don’t let the refs get into your head,” he said. “Don’t
listen to the crowd. Don’t let your opponent get into your head. Wrestle your match and
good things will come.”
In fact, as the crowd grew more and more frustrated, Ramos heard it.
“I heard them,” he admitted. “Let them get frustrated.”
Ramos and Graff finished regulation tied at 4. The first sudden victory and
ensuing tiebreaker periods ended with no change in the score.
During the second sudden victory period, Ramos got the takedown and secured
the 6-4 victory, catapulting him to a Saturday night matchup with top-seeded Logan
Stieber of Ohio State.
“See you guys back here Saturday night,” Ramos said toward the end of his post-
match press conference. “Hard wrestling. No game plan. Everyone has a game plan and
a strategy. You got to go out there and you got to fight, fight and keep on fighting.
That’s how I’m going to win.”
Not to be outdone, Derek St. John’s semifinal match itself went to the second
tiebreaker period following the second sudden victory period before he grabbed a spot in
tomorrow night’s final at 157.
Facing Oklahoma State’s Alex Dieringer, two finished regulation in a 1-1
stalemate. St. John had several shots in the late going, but had trouble completing a
“I never really finished a takedown to win that match,” St. John admitted. “I
really needed a takedown to put an exclamation point on that match.”
Ending the first sudden victory period without a change in score, the two
exchanged escapes in the ensuing tiebreaker periods, sending the match to a second
overtime period knotted at 2.
After a scoreless second sudden victory period, St. John rode Dieringer the
following tiebreaker period and gained a :32 riding time advantage.
“I came down to the ankle a couple times and he could have very easily kicked
out,” he said. “You just keep crawling back up that leg, that’s the goal.”
An escape during the following tiebreaker period sealed the 3-2 victory for the
junior from Iowa City West.
St. John will face top-seeded Jason Welch of Northwestern. The two have faced
each other in the past, but not this season. Welch has never beaten St. John.
“I haven’t seen him wrestle at all this year, but we’ve had a bunch of run-ins,” he
said. “I’m assuming there’s going to be lots of energy and more of an exclamation point
than in the other times we’ve met. He’s going to be fired up. This is for a national title.”
Head coach Tom Brands said his team has had to eek out every point this
“Everything is very hard for us this tournament,” he said. “You can see the
strategy come out of some of these teams to win close matches and keep it close to win.
That’s not a good way to win when you’re going against a team like Penn State, who’s
scoring bonus points each match.”
The finals get underway tomorrow evening at 7:00 at Wells Fargo Arena.