The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Dennis on road to Rio; Ramos to leave Iowa City

Men’s freestyle 57 kg Dan Dennis gets his hand raised after beating fellow Iowa alumn Tony Ramos during the campionship round of the Olympic wrestling trials in Carver Hawkeye on Sunday, April 10, 2016. Dennis defeated Ramos in two straight matches to represent the USA in Rio this summer. (The Daily Iowan/Anthony Vazquez)

Daniel Dennis tops Tony Ramos in two-straight bouts to earn the right to head to Rio; Ramos says he will leave the Hawkeye Wrestling Club.

By Courtney Baumann  |  [email protected]

The 57-kg finals match at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials brought a conclusion no one saw coming.

Daniel Dennis will leave Iowa City for Rio, and Tony Ramos will leave Iowa City for good.

Inside the blue circle, Ramos and Dennis battled twice to see who would earn the right to represent the United States at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio. Both Ramos and Dennis are UI alums, and the pair shared the wrestling room for one year in 2009-10, when Ramos was a true freshman and Dennis a redshirt senior.

In the best two-out-of-three series, Dennis, the prodigal son, reigned victorious.

Though Ramos was favored to win the trials, his loss might not have been his biggest surprise of the weekend.

In Dennis’ corner on a cushioned folding chair, sat Tom Brands.

While Ramos said he was not trying to pin the blame of losing on anyone other than himself, he said he felt “lied to” and “stabbed in the back” by coaches and other members of the Hawkeye Wrestling Club.

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“I feel like this whole situation with me and Dennis was handled not in the best way … I feel like I was loyal to a fault to coaches and athletes,” Ramos said after the loss. “Right now, the first thing I’m thinking is that I need to move on and get out of this program.”

Ramos said he was told by Brands months ago that he would not be in Dennis’s corner, should the two face each other. However, Brands sat on the opposite side for Dennis. Terry Brands cornered for Ramos. According to the wrestler, he found out from Twitter that Tom Brands would not be in his corner.

Ramos felt as though Terry Brands was the only one in the wrestling club who wanted to see him win.

The ill feelings after the match seemed to eclipse the matches themselves.

Only 3 points were charted between the two in the first match, and all 3 were due to shot-clock violations. According to freestyle wrestling rules, Dennis was the less passive one, so he took the first bout.

The second match took a 180-degree turn from the first. Dennis got in on Ramos’s legs quickly, got a 2-point takedown, then gut-wrenched him four times in a row to earn the technical superiority in fewer than two minutes.

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It was the first time the pair faced each other in years.  They practiced in the same room for the 2015-16 season, but they avoided matchups against one another. Dennis said it was because neither saw any benefit in it.

After each wrestler worked his way through his side of the bracket, that matchup became unavoidable.

It had been so long that Dennis forgot how hard Ramos wrestled and how much power he packed in a hit.

“I haven’t wrestled Tony in a really long time. That first match, he clubbed the hell out of me right on the whistle, and I saw stars. Holy cow, I forgot how strong he was,” Dennis said. “In the second match, I was ready for that. I knew he was going to club the hell out of me, it was going to hurt; I had to get ready.”

After his college career ended, Dennis wanted out of wrestling. He left for California, where he took a hiatus regularly practicing the sport he had dedicated his life to.

Members of the Hawkeye wrestling community — including Brands, Iowa assistant wrestling coach Ryan Morningstar, and NCAA champion Royce Alger — wanted him back.

Ramos wasn’t on that list.

Ramos claimed he was never a part of the conversation when bringing Dennis back into the program became plausible. Had he been, he wouldn’t have supported the idea.

“Would you be OK with someone coming back if you were the top guy and you had the top coaches working with you, and they’re bringing a guy in at your weight class who you know you’re going to compete with in the finals?” Ramos said. “Not at all. I don’t think anyone would be.”

Then all of the sudden, there Dennis was — competing for a spot on the Olympic team against a former teammate who replaced him as the 133-pound starter for Iowa just a few years before.

“I don’t really plan too far down the road; it’s not my personality,” Dennis said. “When I started competing again I was signed up for one competition … I don’t think it really came into fruition until I decided to make the cut to 57 … I don’t know if when I came back thought I would be an Olympian.”

Ramos and Dennis navigated a stacked weight class, which contained five NCAA champions (other than Ramos), including the returning Bronze medalist in the 2012 Olympics, Coleman Scott. Ramos beat Nahshon Garrett and Scott to get to the finals. Dennis surpassed Alan Waters and Tyler Graff.

And the trials ended in what seemed to be the best- and worst-case scenario for the Hawkeye wrestling faithful: Two Hawkeyes were in the finals.

Dennis walked away the victor.

Brands had limited interaction with Ramos after the match and hearing Ramos’ comments came as a surprise.

Ramos said his plans for the immediate future of his wrestling career are unclear; he said he would consider looking for a coaching position should he not continue to wrestle.

Tom Brands hopes the relationship with Ramos is salvageable. Having Ramos in the wrestling room is not only beneficial to the Hawkeye Wrestling Club but to the college athletes as well, because he is “an extension of the coaching staff.”

He also said his relationship with Dennis had nothing to do with who he wanted to win — he would be equal parts happy and sad no matter who won Sunday evening.

“When you corner a guy, you aren’t in his corner for matches, you’re in his corner for life. I’ve been in [Ramos’s] corner since the day he walked onto campus. Have been and always will be,” Tom Brands said. “Tony Ramos has an open door, and he knows that.”

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