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IOWA CITY, Iowa – They certainly are not Facebook friends, and it is a safe bet they won't exchange any tweets any time soon.
It isn't personal, though. Just two competitors whose path to a Big Ten and NCAA title intersect.
The rivalry between the University of Iowa's Tony Ramos and Logan Stieber, of Ohio State, has resulted in some exciting, competitive and heated matches. The intense Hawkeye 133-pounder and the defending national champion Stieber serves as the marquee match in a dual filled with intriguing match-ups. Fifth-ranked Iowa hosts No. 4 Ohio State Friday night at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, starting at 7:04 p.m.
Stieber is top-ranked with a 15-0 record. Ramos is 10-0 and ranked second. A hint of mutual respect exists, as long as it doesn't interfere with their individual title pursuit.
"I don't know how he feels about me, but I don't like anyone that's at my weight. I don't like anyone that's from a different team," Ramos said Wednesday in the Dan Gable Wrestling Complex during the team's weekly media gathering. "Is there respect? Yeah, there's respect, but do I like him? No. Am I going to go out there and try to put my will on him and break him? Yes."
Stieber was more subtle with his response to the rivalry with Ramos, who had to be restrained by an official after a 5-2 loss for last year's Big Ten crown. Even though it extends back to youth wrestling, Stieber won all three matches between the two last year, including wins in the Big Ten finals and the NCAA semifinals.
"Our matches have been all good matches," Stieber told The Gazette in a phone interview. "He's done very well in his career so far. You can consider it a rivalry. We wrestled many times when we were younger. He's won some and I've won some."
Ramos is a junior and Stieber is a sophomore. Their respective ages promise many more battles to watch in the future. They are quite familiar with the foe's style, so wins may rely on intangibles and conditioning.
"We're used to each other," Ramos said. "We know what each other is going to bring to the table. Either way you look at it, it's going to be a fight and whoever wants it more is going to get it."
The last loss still burns Ramos. Stieber won 4-2 to reach the national finals, defending a late takedown attempt by Ramos to avoid overtime. Ramos has anticipated this chance to take on Stieber, despite his dominance this year with eight pins, four technical falls and two 11-point major decisions.
"It's something I've been focused on since the end of last year," said Ramos, who last beat Stieber for a spot on the U.S. Junior World team before college. "It's something I knew was going to be around the corner and coming up, so I've been working for it all season long."
Stieber has owned an advantage, especially wrestling on the mat. Iowa coach Tom Brands said Ramos will need to be solid in all three positions. Brands also said Ramos had successful moments in each meeting with Stieber last year, but he will have to consolidate them in one bout.
"He's going to need to be consistent for seven minutes," Brands said. "He's going to have to put together some good things that he's done in three matches prior, put them all together and keep doing those things."
Stieber has been dominant this season, posting a 15-0 record with eight pins, four technical falls and two major decisions. His closest matches were two 11-point wins. Ramos might have to produce one of his most complete performances as a college wrestler to break Stieber's string of victories. Stieber blanked Ramos, 7-0, in the dual last year, turning Ramos for three nearfall points in the second period.
"I have to get a takedown," Ramos said. "I have to score. I need to ride hard on top and I have to be able to get out from the bottom. If you want to win a big match like this, you have to get out, so it's something I've been working on."
For both elite wrestlers the margin of error is slim. Both admitted one mistake could be costly. Stieber expects hard-fought battles whenever he steps on the mat with Ramos.
"You have to be able to wrestle the whole seven minutes," Stieber said. "Take no breaks with smart wrestling, because one break for either of us can mean the match."
A similar opportunity presented itself last year, when Ramos wrestled former NCAA champion Jordan Oliver at CHA. He scored an overtime win, and owns a 19-0 career mark at home. Ramos said that creates an heightened sense of urgency, as does the many family, friends and fans expected to attend.
"They're looking for a good match, but most of all they're looking for a win," Ramos said. "You have to be prepared. You have to be ready to go. You don't want to let people down."
The Buckeyes (6-0) thumped the Hawkeyes (10-0) last year, winning seven of 10 matches at Columbus, Ohio. This year's dual features 18 ranked wrestlers. The majority of matches could be considered swing matches.
Sophomore Mike Evans, ranked as high as seventh, is expected to face No. 2 Nick Heflin at 174. Senior 141-pounder Mark Ballweg, ranked in the top-10, faces second-ranked Hunter Stieber.
Brands said the Hawkeyes have to do what they do best and good things will happen, but he expects a Buckeye team out for "blood."
"They were very fired up when we came to town last year and now they're coming to our town," Brands said. "I'm sure, without speaking for them too much, they're wanting to do some destruction be have to take
The dual is a "Be Bold. Wear Gold." event. Fans are asked to wear gold shirts to the contest.
Former Hawkeye and Waterloo native Chuck Yagla will serve as honorary captain for the dual. Yagla was a two-time 150-pound Big Ten and NCAA champion in 1975 and 1976, when he was named Outstanding Wrestler at the NCAA tournament as a senior. Yagla was 129-17-2 as a Hawkeye with 44 pins, ranking 10th in school history. He was an Iowa assistant coach for Dan Gable from 1978-82. Yagla was a member of the 1980 U.S. Olympic team member.