OKLAHOMA CITY — Tony Ramos pounded his chest, stomped his feet and glared across the mat Saturday night, waiting for Tyler Graff to blink.
None of the Iowa senior’s pre-match bluster, though, was as bold as what came after the 133-pound NCAA wrestling final.
Ramos held the Wisconsin senior on his back for a two-count to score the winning points in a 3-1 tiebreaker victory in front of 16,217 at Chesapeake Energy Arena. After video review confirmed the decisive points, the brash Hawkeye sprinted off the mat, over a rail and into the crowd where he was mobbed by family and friends.
“You always have something planned,” Ramos said of his choreographed post-match celebration. “They’re the closest people to me (along with) the wrestling team, (Iowa coaches) Tom and Terry (Brands) and other coaches. I wanted to see them as quick as I could.”
Ramos was so sure he was going to win a national title that he showed up at Wednesday’s pre-tournament news conference wearing a shirt with three letters across the front: I will dominate. He spoke candidly about his plans to win the tournament.
His family was equally certain. His brother, Frankie, printed up black hats with gold capital letters: NCAA CHAMP.
“He has a unique way of expressing (his confidence) and a unique way of displaying it, but that’s him and it’s real,” Tom Brands said. “That’s every day. He’s beautiful for our program.”
Ramos provided a tonic to a tough week for the Hawkeyes, who entered the tournament with title hopes that faded during Friday’s quarterfinal session. Iowa finished fourth with 78.5 points, 31 behind Penn State, which clinched its fourth straight NCAA title in the second-to-last match of the tournament.
Minnesota finished second with 104 points while Oklahoma State was third with 96.5.
Iowa went 3-6 in Saturday morning’s consolation session when Bobby Telford placed fourth at heavyweight, Cory Clark (125) and Derek St. John (157) finished fifth, Mike Evans (174) took sixth and Nathan Burak (197) placed eighth.
“We’ve got to step back and evaluate (the tournament),” Brands said. “I don’t think you go to work on it tomorrow or today. You go to work on it (in your mind), but we’ve got to build, too. There are some hungry young guys in that room.”
Ramos was one of those guys four years ago when Iowa claimed its last national team title. He talked a big game before he set foot on campus, calling out Olympians Doug Schwab and Mike Zadick and verbalizing his title plans when he committed to the Hawkeyes.
The Carol Stream, Ill., native backed it up Saturday night after a pair of near misses the past two seasons. He lost to eventual champion Logan Stieber of Ohio State in the 2012 semifinals and dropped a 7-4 decision amid controversy in last year’s title bout.
The Iowa corner thought Ramos score near-fall points or possibly pinned Stieber midway through last year’s championship match, but the call stood after video review.
Ramos was determined not to suffer the same fate this season. He brushed off two December defeats and stepped on the mat Saturday night with his confidence overflowing.
“He looked down,” Ramos said of Graff. “He gave it away. You can fake it all you want. He didn’t even know when he made a mistake.”