CEDAR RAPIDS — Tony Ramos and Cory Clark were teammates and training partners at the University of Iowa.
They were even housemates when Clark lived with Ramos and his eventual wife, Megan, for a time in Iowa City.
Now, Clark remains a member of the Hawkeye Wrestling Club, while Ramos has continued his wrestling career as a coach for the University of North Carolina.
The duo will come face-to-face again Friday night, wrestling each other in the 134.5-pound bout of the American Wrestling League’s inaugural event Friday night at the U.S. Cellular Center, beginning at 7 p.m. They are joined by former Hawkeyes Brandon Sorensen and Sammy Brooks and former Iowa State NCAA champion Kyven Gadson in the dual, featuring 10 freestyle matches between teams captained by world champions David Taylor and Kyle Dake.
Clark was an All-American at 125 as a freshman, finishing fifth in the country when Ramos closed his career with the 2014 133-pound NCAA title. Both are taking a businesslike approach to the matchup.
“I have to look at it as another match, another opportunity to go out and compete and represent myself the best way that I can,” Ramos said. “I like Cory a lot. There’s a lot of respect there. I lived with him. I still keep in contact with him, still talk when we see each other. It’s not something where there’s going to be bad blood fueling it.”
Facing a two-time U.S. World Team member, Clark views this as a good gauge and a way to advance his international career.
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“I don’t get too worked up in it emotionally,” said Clark, an NCAA champion and three-time national finalist. “It’s another opponent. … I think it means more because it’s the next match in front of me. It’s a steppingstone for where I want to get, where I want to be and that’s the way I approach the match.”
Ramos was a Hawkeye fan favorite as a three-time All-American and even when he represented USA Wrestling at the 2014 and 2015 World Championships. Ramos has not personally wrestled in the area since losing in the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials in Iowa City, which was followed by a highly-publicized and contentious departure from the HWC.
He doesn’t expect a warm reception, but said he has experienced that role as a Hawkeye, wrestling in hostile environments at Oklahoma State, Penn State and Iowa State. Ramos said he will get a taste of what opponents faced coming into Carver-Hawkeye Arena and the state in general.
“I’m definitely excited to get back to (Iowa),” said Ramos, whose Tar Heels team did wrestle at Northern Iowa last season. “This time, coming in as the opponent I guess I would say, the crowd’s really not going to favor me, dealing with a lot of what those opposing teams or athletes might have to deal with when they come in and wrestle at a place like Carver or Iowa.
“It’s nothing new to me. It’s not a position that I haven’t been in. I’ve been in those positions plenty of times.”
Clark has tuned out all the rhetoric on the periphery and is focused on the match. They are very familiar with each other’s styles, working out, warming up and traveling together as teammates. Clark estimated the last time they rolled around in practice was in 2016.
“It was like going with a lot of guys,” Clark said. “It was a tough scrap. It was a hand fight. It wasn’t real high-scoring. A lot of working hard on our feet.
“I don’t game plan for where we’ll wrestle similar to how we did in the (practice) room. I’m just going out to wrestle and score points. If I have to win a close match, I’ve got to win a close match, but if I have opportunities to get to the legs and score then that’s what I’m doing.”
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Ramos has been in and out of competition, making his last U.S. World Team in 2015. He has bumped up from 125.5, taking time off after a loss to in the Final X World Team Trial to 2017 World silver medalist Thomas Gilman. Ramos worked on the mental aspect and increased his size to regain his power and strength.
“I think that’s all finally coming around,” said Ramos, whose weight is about 155 before his decent. “My weight has been a lot higher, walking around bigger. I feel like I’ve gotten that power back. Training has been going good.”
Clark is ready for the challenge. This could be a boost to his stock in the early stages of his post-collegiate career.
“It’s a big match,” Clark said. “It’s a guy who has been on the world team, a guy who has had some success on the freestyle scene. So, to get to where I want to be this is a match I have to be able to win.”
In other bouts, Sorensen will wrestle two-time World medalist James Green at 154. Brooks faces former Ohio State wrestler Nick Heflin at 189.
Gadson, a two-time state champion from Waterloo East, takes on Jacob Kasper, formerly of Duke, at 213.
Two others with Iowa ties will compete. Richie Lewis, who wrestled at Iowa Central before transferring to Rutgers, will face former North Carolina State wrestler Tommy Gantt at 163. U.S. National Team member Deron Winn, of the Cyclone Wrestling Club, has Mike Macchiavello, who also wrestled at N.C. State, at 202.8.
In two other top bouts, Oklahoma State’s Jordan Oliver and Alex Dieringer will battle Big Ten foes. Oliver will have Penn State’s two-time Hodge trophy winner and current U.S. World Team member Zain Retherford at 143. Dieringer takes on former Illinois NCAA champion Isaiah Martinez at 174.2.
Frank Perelli will go against Nico Megaludis at 125.5 to round out the slate.
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