OKLAHOMA CITY – Tony Ramos said he wanted to run through his bracket at the national tournament.
Chasing opponents around the wrestling mat wasn’t exactly what the Iowa senior hand in mind.
But on a day when points were hard to find for the third-seeded 133-pounder and two of his highly rated teammates stumbled, there was something to be said for surviving to fight another day at the NCAA Championships.
Ramos withstood a pair of teeth-clenching bouts Thursday at Chesapeake Energy Arena and his team remained in the national title chase by regaining its footing after a wobbly afternoon session.
Iowa finished the night in fourth place with 20.5 points, six back of three-time defending champion Penn State. More important, six Hawkeyes advanced to this morning’s quarterfinals and four others remained in contention for all-America honors, including first-round upset victims Nick Moore and Ethen Lofthouse.
Nathan Burak punctuated the round for the Hawkeyes, scoring a takedown with two seconds remaining to win a 4-3 decision at 197 against Richard Perry, snapping the sixth-seeded Bloomsburg senior’s 30-match winning streak. Symbolic of the opening day for the Hawkeyes, the score came under the most difficult circumstances — on the edge of the mat with the clock ticking down.
“I was pretty tentative the first period of the match and kind of the whole season,” said Burak, who advanced to take on Virginia Tech’s No. 14 Chris Penny, who topped No. 3 seed Morgan McIntosh of Penn State. “(You) just keep wrestling the whole time, just keep attacking and flowing into the next attack and staying on him. … It really solidifies what my coaches have been telling me to keep going after his legs and it will be in my favor.”
Points came at a premium for the Hawkeyes throughout the day. Iowa scored bonus points in five of its 20 bouts, but three of those instances came at the end of the night in the consolation round.
“You want to know why (we had trouble scoring). I don’t know why,” Iowa coach Tom Brands said. “Takedowns were hard and points were hard to get, so it doesn’t matter why, just go do (it). Why isn’t relevant to me. Let’s not try to figure it out, let’s go out with some action.”
Iowa dipped to ninth in the team race after the opening round when the Hawkeyes went 7-3. Three wrestlers seeded fifth or better lost during the opening session. Two of them were Hawkeyes.
Moore fell behind 7-2 early and couldn’t catch up, dropping a 15-7 major decision against Bloomsburg’s Josh Veltre, who eliminated the Iowa 165-pounder from last year’s national tournament.
Edinboro’s Victor Avery used a takedown late in the second period to seize control at 184 during his 5-3 win against Lofthouse.
Iowa put itself back in the race Thursday night. Freshman Cory Clark (125), NCAA champ Derek St. John (157), Mike Evans (174) and heavyweight Bobby Telford joined Burak and Ramos in the quarterfinals.
Ramos needed a takedown with 14 seconds remaining to win a 3-1 decision against Pittsburgh’s Shelton Mack in the first round and had to go to overtime Thursday night to pull out a 6-4 win against Illinois freshman Zane Richards.
“He didn’t want to wrestle, he wanted to back up,” said Ramos, who will take on No. 6 seed Mason Beckman of Lehigh in the quarterfinals. “He wanted to back up the whole match and sneak one in and he (did). It didn’t make a difference, I kept wrestling.
“If they’re going to run, I’ve got to do something about it. Guys don’t want to wrestle. Hopefully I get someone who wants to wrestle. When people attack me I’m even better.”