Strong Showing for the State of Illinois at Division I Championships
By SETH SCHWARTZ
When people think of the Iowa style, chances are Tony Ramos comes to mind. No. 3 seed, he dropped a 4-2 decision to Ohio State’s Logan Stieber Friday night in the semifinals, but came back to place third at 133 pounds.
“I needed to get to Stieber’s legs in the first period and I didn’t,” said Ramos. “I had an opportunity in the third period, but I needed to keep my hips a little lower and he was able to roll through. It was a tough loss, but I knew I had to shake it off, stay positive and keep focused.”
After beating Virginia Tech’s Devin Carter 8-3, Ramos took charge getting two first period takedowns against Minnesota’s Chris Dardanes before closing the deal with a fall at 5:50.
“Ending with a pin is a good feeling; it’s good for the team,” said Ramos. “He was going roll through, but I caught his arm, dropped my hips and got the pin.
“Going from the round of 12 [last year] to third is nice, but it’s not my ultimate goal.”
The arduous Big 10 season helps for the three-day grind at Nationals.
“The Big 10 is a tough schedule,” said Ramos. “There are a lot of good wrestlers at 133, but I like being in a hard class.”
Iowa coach Tom Brands likes Ramos’ mettle and moxie.
“We love Ramos; he’s very serious about what he does,” said Brands. “Finishing third is rewarding. When you wrestle hard good things happen.”
Coming in 23rd and 22nd the last two years, coach Jim Heffernan added assistants Cory Cooperman and Mark Perry to the staff.
Imparting their knowledge, energy and enthusiasm helped elevate the Illini as they finished seventh (62 points) with four All-American’s.
Freshman Jesse Delgado (125, seventh), B.J. Futrell (133, sixth), Conrad Polz (165, eighth) and Jordan Blanton (174, fourth) propelled Illinois.
After failing to qualify the past two seasons, Polz got on track from the start.
A three-time state champion from Sandburg, No. 9 seed Polz dropped a 8-3 decision to Oklahoma’s Pat Graham in the opening round. In the wrestlebacks, he beat Cornell’s Marshall Peppelman 7-1, pinned Bucknell’s Corey Lear in 33 seconds. Hitting a beautiful double-leg midway through overtime, Polz beat Hofstra’s Paul Gillespie. Appalachian State’s Kyle Blevins defeated Polz 4-2 in overtime and Wisconsin’s Ben Jordan beat Polz 5-2.
Cooperman became emotional speaking about his 165 pounder.
“Conrad is a great kid; he’s got the body of an Adonis, but when you don’t have this [pointing with both index fingers to his head] it doesn’t matter how good you are,” he said.
“This year, he battled and made steady progress. There’s no quit in him; he’s hungry and wants more. Placing is a huge confidence booster for him. I told him, ‘There’s no All-American that’s not bleeding and bruised.”
Assessing his placement, Polz got to the point.
“In college it’s never one thing, it’s a combination,” he stated. “I think it’s been mostly mental; staying focused. I started out 9-0 and wrestled some good guys and that gave me confidence. Cory worked with me a lot [one-on-one] to give me a mental edge. We talked about wrestling smart and wrestling big in tough situations.”
Chris and Nick Dardanes are having considerable success on the mat and in the classroom.
Chris (133) advanced to the quarterfinals before losing to Ohio State’s Logan Stieber 7-4. In the wrestlebacks, he got a decision, a pin over Harvard’s Steven Keith in overtime and a pin over Illinois’ B.J. Futrell at 6:29 before losing to Ramos for third.
Down 5-1 in the first period, Dardanes rallied in the third and tied the match at eight before catching Futrell.
“I got a high-crotch, he sat out, I caught his arm and rolled back,” said Dardanes, whose three pins helped Minnesota to second place. “It’s good being able to place, but the goal is to be a national champion.”
Getting into the starting lineup at midseason, Dardanes proved he belonged.
“I think having a physical style helped me hold my own in the Big Ten,” said Dardanes, who had to sit out last year after two surgeries on his right ACL. “My doctor at home didn’t do a good job, but the team doctor [Pat Smith] did a great job.”
Nick (141) dropped a 7-3 decision to Michigan’s two-time champion Kellen Russell and then was eliminated by Cornell’s Mike Nevinger 5-2.
“I got a lot to work on for next year; it’s disappointing,” said Nick.
The brothers are carrying over a 3.0 grade point average in sports management and are enjoying life in Minneapolis.
“The campus and city are a lot of fun,” said Nick. “There’s a lot of support in the city for wrestling. You have kids come up and ask you for your autograph.”
“The guys on the team are really close and the coaching is the best; we couldn’t have asked for a better place,” said Chris.
Northwestern’s Jason Welch (157) lost to Iowa’s Derek St. John 5-1 in the semifinal, but came back and finished fourth losing to Penn State’s Dylan Alton 6-2. His efforts helped the Wildcats finish ninth with 42.5 points.
“St. John is really long and knows how to use leverage,” said Welch, who took sixth last year. “You can feel like you’re lost underneath him. He scored early and it’s tough to come back after that.
“I felt I wrestled well [overall].”