MADISON, Wis. — Tony Ramos saw too many American lightweights coming home from the World Championships without a prize.
Jake Varner watched the U.S. freestyle team claim just one medal last year as he contemplated shelving his wrestling shoes next to his Olympic gold medal.
One opted to start his pursuit of international glory a year earlier than planned, and the other decided to take another shot at gold. They both wound up in the same place Saturday night at the World Team Trials.
The college stars from Iowa and Iowa State both landed spots on the U.S. freestyle team after sweeping their best-of-three championship series inside the Alliant Energy Center.
In his senior-level debut, Ramos pushed aside past World Team member Angel Escobedo in the morning challenge tournament and dispatched 2012 Olympian Sam Hazewinkel in two straight bouts Saturday night.
After winning an NCAA title for the Hawkeyes in March and with a wedding on the horizon next month, Ramos said he considered taking the year off. Then he and his fiancee, former Iowa volleyball player Megan Eskew, watched the U.S. Open in April and she urged him to make a 20-pound cut down to 125.5 for Saturday’s tournament.
“I didn’t know if I wanted to make the drop or not,” Ramos said. “But I’m a competitor and when you see people winning that you know you can beat, it drives you even harder.”
With his 4-0 and 5-4 victories in Saturday night’s championship series, Ramos became the seventh different American in seven years to fill the lightest weight class for the U.S. freestyle team in World and Olympic competition. Henry Cejudo, who won the Olympic gold in 2008 at 21, is the only one of the bunch who claimed an international medal.
“I’m done seeing these old guys wrestle — they’ve had their chances,” said Ramos, who won the 133-pound NCAA title for the Hawkeyes in March. “You see interviews — I’ve watched (Nick) Simmons, I’ve watched Hazewinkel, I’ve watched Escobedo, all they ever talk about is winning a medal. They’re satisfied with winning a medal. If you think if I go overseas and just bring home a bronze or silver I’m going to be satisfied, you’re wrong. It’s about winning gold, it’s not about just winning a medal. You’ve got to want it all.”