North Carolina's Associate Head Coach Tony Ramos (Photo/Tony Rotundo; WrestlersAreWarriors.com)
Tony Ramos made his mark on college wrestling as an intense and hardworking 133 lber for the Iowa Hawkeyes with three top-three (3,2,1) finishes at the NCAA championship. Ramos has also made a name for himself on the coaching circuit. He has been at the University of North Carolina since 2016, starting as a Volunteer Assistant while still actively competing and has worked his way through the ranks to be a highly sought-after Associate Head Coach. Ramos is now making his mark on the wrestling community with a different title: Advocate.
Tony has been an ally behind the scenes for many years, but last year he took major steps in being an outspoken advocate for LGBTQ+ athletes in wrestling. "It really kicked off last year during the COVID shutdown when I had more downtime that I could use for good. It has been something that I've been discussing with my small group for a few years now, but really became a bigger scale last year when I was able to present at the NWCA coaches convention". Ramos paired with Jenna Burkert, 57kg Women's National Team member and SERTC athlete, to put on a presentation called "Wrestling with Pride: Being an Advocate for LGBTQ+". This was presented at the NWCA National Convention as well as multiple state coaching conventions. Ramos has also worked with Wrestle Like a Girl and Athlete Ally to put on panel discussions. Athlete Ally was founded by Hudson Taylor, 3x All-American and 2x ACC Champion at Maryland and former coach at Columbia.
As a coach, Ramos said that his team has been very open to discussions on the topic and have been active allies within the UNC community. Ramos was very impressed by the reaction when he hosted a panel discussion on campus. "This one was very cool because it was not just for athletes but school and department-wide. The outreach I received afterward for being an ally was awesome!" When asked about the importance of taking on the role of an ally as a coach, Ramos said, "I hope it opens doors and creates opportunities for all in our sport. That everyone can feel welcome in the environment we are creating in Chapel Hill".
Ramos feels that as a community, wrestling is showing growth. As awareness increased around activism and advocacy, USA Wrestling implemented a new committee last year called the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee to focus on advocacy for everyone in the sport. "We are doing a better job of having discussions. Forever wrestling has such a masculine sport and there were topics you didn't associate with it. I feel there have been huge strides in the past year and we are finally having the discussions we need to have". Though there has been improvement, there is still room for growth. For Ramos, this starts with individuals speaking up. "We need to keep creating a safe and comfortable environment for all. The more high-level athletes and coaches talk and support, the more the rest who are quiet allies will feel comfortable being vocal".
If you are interested in more information on becoming an ally, Wrestle Like A Girl and Athlete Ally are both phenomenal wrestling-centered sources.