IOWA CITY — Former Iowa national champion and three-time All-American Tony Ramos took nearly two hours after losing to former teammate Daniel Dennis in the 57 kilograms finals of the U.S. Olympic Team Trials Sunday night at Carver-Hawkeye Arena to make an appearance in the press conference room.
And when he finally appeared, Ramos let loose with a torrent of emotions.
Ramos, the top seed heading into the tournament, lost to Dennis, 2-1, 10-0, and had his Olympic dream shattered.
Ramos then tore into Iowa head coach Tom Brands, his coaching staff and fellow Hawkeye Wrestling Club teammates, finally vowing to leave the program for good.
It was a bizarre ending to what had been a celebration of wrestling at the highest level over two days.
Ramos didn’t hold back any punches.
“I guess the biggest thing right now that I’m feeling — I’m not trying to put the blame on anybody for the loss, that’s on me — but I feel like this whole situation with me and Dennis was handled not in the best way. I was lied to a couple times. I feel I was stabbed in the back. I feel like I was loyal to a fault to coaches and athletes,” Ramos said. “The first thing I’m thinking right now is that I need to move on. I need to get out of this program.
“I’m not going to hold anything back. I was told by Tom Brands over two months ago that he would not be in Dan Dennis’ corner, that he and Terry (Brands) would corner me. We had the conversation. Right away I see that Tom Brands is going to be in Dan Dennis’ corner from the media, from Twitter. Then they have (assistant coach) Ryan Morningstar in my corner. Then I go out to eat and Ryan Morningstar is sitting at a dinner table eating dinner with Dan Dennis.
“It’s just things like that that shouldn’t be handled like that in that situation. Dennis was on his way out of here to go to Virginia Tech and Tom bent over backwards to bring him back. Why would you do that to your top athlete who is No. 1 on the ladder right now, put him in that situation?”
“I He’s not feeling very good because you put your life into something and it doesn’t go your way. We’re all competitors here,” Iowa coach Tom Brands siad. “This is a situation that I am just aware of his comments. Corner? When you corner a guy, you’re not just in his corner for matches, you’re in his corner for life. I’ve been in that guy’s corner since that guy walked on campus. Have been and always will be.”
The competitive nature of Ramos and Dennis was apparent in the match. It was also apparent afterwards, when Ramos said the bitter feelings started when Dennis returned to the Hawkeye Wrestling Club last year. The feeling have intensified as the Olympic Team Trials drew nearer.
“They should have never brought (Dennis) in. Terry Brands agreed with me on that, too. He said when we had this conversation they never asked me how I felt about it. (Tom Brands) told me he was going to put his money where his mouth was, he as going to put his money where his loyalty is at. I see where it’s at now,” Ramos said. “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 bring in a guy at your weight class who you know you’re going to compete with in the finals? Not at all. I don’t think anybody would be.”
Brands had a different take on the situation, instead seeing two highly-competitive individuals after the same goal and only one could win.
“When you’re talking about things that unravel a little bit, it’s easy to go the sour grape route. Maybe that’s easy. When you’re accusing someone of lying and things that are not true, I have a hard time believing that’s true when the bottom line is it has been said since Day 1 when that guy walked on campus he’s been my guy. Just like every other guy upstairs in that wrestling room. We give our soul to those guys equally. There’s a lot to be said for you get what you earn. You do get what you earn,” Brands said. “The bottom line is we had two guys at a weight. I am very happy for Dan Dennis. I’m down about Tony Ramos. I’m as down about Tony Ramos as I am about Brent Metcalf. If Tony Ramos wins that wrestling match, then I’m extremely happy for Tony Ramos and I am as down about Dan Dennis as I am about Brent Metcalf. It’s really that simple.”
“Terry Brands — he’s the man. The whole time he was by my side. The whole time he agreed with everything and how I felt. Go look at the comments from the HWC members. Go look at the comments from Ryan Morningstar. I don’t think there was one person in this program, other than Terry Brands, that wanted to see me win that match,” Ramos said. “Go look at the comments from Brent Metcalf, saying Dan Dennis is the Donald Trump. At first he was just throwing his hat in the ring and now he’s the No. 1 guy. This was months before we had even wrestled or it was going to happen. Things like that.
“There were talks with me and my wife of leaving in the middle of the season. She asked me to stick it out. I stuck it out. Now it’s time to get out of here.”
As to Ramos’ future, it appears to be up in the air. Brands is keeping the door open, but Ramos appears ready to slam it shut and open a new one.
“I don’t know what’s next yet. I don’t know if I’m going to keep competing. I’m going to find a coaching job and I am going to try to beat whoever I can,” Ramos said.
“It’s salvageable from a relationship point of view because I don’t give up. This is not the first time that I’ve heard that he would like to go and coach closer to the Chicago area. He’s a valuable commodity as a coach. Tony Ramos is good with kids. He’s good with his coaching. He’s good with mentorship,” Brands said. “The door is always open for Tony Ramos.”