Wrestling: Cory Clark beats Tony Ramos at AWL’s debut event

Cody Goodwin
Hawk Central

CEDAR RAPIDS, Ia. — There were many compelling storylines Friday night at the American Wrestling League’s debut event inside the U.S. Cellular Center.

But from a pure on-the-mat standpoint, perhaps none provided more intrigue than the Cory Clark-Tony Ramos match.

Competing at 61 kilograms (134 pounds), Clark took the victory in emphatic fashion, 8-0. In a matchup of two former Hawkeyes, in front of an Iowa-heavy crowd, the young, up-and-comer (at least on the Senior freestyle circuit) took out the established veteran by a convincing margin.

Iowa's Cory Clark celebrates after defeating South Dakota States Seth Gross in the 133-pound final at the NCAA Division I wresting championships on Saturday in St. Louis.

“It’s always going to be tough against a guy that’s a good hand-fighter, a guy that’s strong, and I was ready for that,” Clark said afterward. “I just had to be patient and not rush things.”

This was always going to be the most interesting matchup, at least from an Iowa perspective. These guys were teammates at one point. Both were NCAA All-Americans in 2014 — Clark took fifth at 125 pounds while Ramos won a title at 133.

Even more, they were roommates. Clark went on to become a four-time All-American for the Hawkeyes, and he spent many days staring at Ramos’s commemorative bracket from his NCAA crown, which motivated him to win his own in 2017.

Ramos, of course, left the Hawkeye Wrestling Club for a coaching position at North Carolina after the 2016 Olympic Trials. Clark has stuck around Iowa City and found some freestyle success, both in the U.S. and internationally.

When the matchups for Friday’s event were announced, the noise grew around the Ramos-Clark bout. Clark did his best to tune it all out, focusing instead on another opportunity — match winners on Friday went home with $7,500, according to AWL founder Wayne Boyd, thanks to generous donors. 

“I’ve been wrestling my whole life,” Clark said. “I hear it, but I don’t. I hear what I want to hear. It’s something you might not ever master, but you get better at it year by year, day by day.”

It turns out, Clark proved he was plenty better on this night. He led 1-0 after the first period thanks to a passivity call against Ramos. In the second, Ramos took a shot and Clark slithered out to score a takedown of his own. He added a gut wrench on the edge to go up 5-0.

“I went to my corner and said, ‘I think I can get to my high-crotch,’” Clark said. “And (coach) David Taylor said, ‘Well get to it.’ I think me picking up my pace and acting like I wanted to shoot kind of made him pull the gun.

“That fed right into my defense. When I’m on offense, that’s when my defense is the best. I think that’s why I got so many defensive takedowns. I was just trying to open up a little bit.”

Clark added another push-out and takedown before time expired, and the crowd stood to applaud his efforts. He felt good about the way he competed, and moments after stepping off the staged mat, he was already looking ahead to the next challenge.

“It’s a good feeling,” Clark said. “But I have work to do. I need to get back to the room and help these college guys get ready. The better I can compete with them, the better I’m going to be."

Iowa's Sammy Brooks celebrates after his stunning pin of Illinois' Emery Parker sent him into the NCAA semifinals at 184 pounds.

Sammy Brooks storms back to beat Heflin

Sammy Brooks took the mat for the first time in a while on Friday and looked exceptional in an 11-4 comeback victory over former Ohio State star Nick Heflin at 86 kilograms (189 pounds). 

Heflin scored a couple of takedowns in the first period to go up 4-0, but Brooks fed off the Hawkeye-heavy crowd and stormed back with 11 unanswered points to win. He scored three takedowns, including one that went right into a leglace, as well as a few step-outs.

“We knew coming in that guy had a lot of firepower and he likes to score,” Brooks said. “But we also knew I could wrestle at a hell of a pace, and I live for those deep-water situations. That was how we drew it up."

Sorensen falls to James Green

James Green may not have medaled at this year’s world championships, but the former Nebraska standout is still pretty good.

Brandon Sorensen found that out the hard way.

In Friday night's opening match, Green rolled to a 10-0 technical fall over Sorensen at 70 kilograms (154 pounds). Green led 6-0 after the first and clinched the superiority midway through the second.

Green dictated the pace, looked quick on his feet and was just a little too much for Sorensen on this night. He’s a two-time world medalist for a reason, after all.

Gadson shows out, then bolts for the birth of his daughter

Kyven Gadson might’ve made a few world teams by now if not for Kyle Snyder. In a 5-3 win over Jacob Kasper, the former Iowa State star flashed his mat savviness and the ability to score when needed.

With the Iowa State wrestling team in the crowd, Gadson scored a takedown to lead 2-1 after the first. He added a push-out, then gave one up, and with 15 seconds left, Kasper took a shot. Gadson countered for a two-point exposure, which eliminated the threat and sealed a victory.

“I loved it,” Gadson said of the event. “I wish I would have put on a better show. Mentally, I didn’t feel like I was all there, so I apologize for that, just because I’ve been training really hard, you know? I need to do a better job with that mental piece.”

The best part? As soon as Gadson finished, he sped through his post-match interview and rushed to a local hospital to be with his wife for the birth of their daughter.

Cody Goodwin covers wrestling and high school sports for the Des Moines Register. Follow him on Twitter at @codygoodwin.

AWL I: The Beginning

  • 70 kg: James Green (D) tech fall Brandon Sorensen (T), 10-0
  • 74 kg: Tommy Gantt (T) over Richie Lewis (D), 7-2
  • 79 kg: Alex Dieringer (T) over Isaiah Martinez (D), 4-2
  • 86 kg: Sammy Brooks (T) over Nick Heflin (D), 11-4
  • 92 kg: Mike Macchiavello (T) over Deron Winn (D), 8-0
  • 97 kg: Kyven Gadson (T) over Jacob Kasper (D), 5-3
  • 125 kg: Dom Bradley (D) over Zach Rey (T), 3-2
  • 57 kg: Nico Megaludis (T) over Frank Perrelli (D), 7-2
  • 61 kg: Cory Clark (T) over Tony Ramos (D), 8-0
  • 65 kg: Jordan Oliver (D) over Zain Retherford (T), 13-11

Team Score: Team Taylor 7, Team Dake 3