The Gophers wrestling team felled mighty Penn State 18-17 at the Sports Pavilon last month and tied for the Big Ten dual meet title with the Nittany Lions and Iowa. All finished 7-1.
Minnesota also won the National Duals -- for the third year in a row -- in Columbus, Ohio, and more recently beat Iowa State to finish 13-1 in dual meets.
But when the Big Ten meet is held in Madison, Wis., they won't be favored to win it. They're a longshot, behind Penn State and even Iowa.
A team's dual meet strength and tournament strength are often way different.
InterMat, the website based in St. Louis Park, has two different polls each week.
Its dual meet poll has one top three this week: 1. Minnesota (14-1), 2. Penn State (15-1), 3. Iowa (15-2).
Its tournament strength poll another: 1. Penn State, 2. Iowa, 3. Minnesota.
In a tournament, it's much more important to have several studs. Wrestlers who can win a title or at least reach the finals.
In the NCAA tournament last year, Penn State won with 123.5 points and the Nittany Lions had five wrestlers in the finals; two won titles.
So for fun, let's look at the Big Ten tournament to see who should be favored to win. You probably can guess it will be PSU -- and that is how it turns out.
To analyze the Big Ten tournament, we have to make some assumptions and use some shortcuts:
Let's assume the pretournament seeds for the Big Ten meet are 100 percent accurate and, in every case, the higher rated wrestler wins ... big assumption there.
The scoring system, at it's core, works like this: 16 points for first, 12 for second, 10 for third, 9 for fourth, 7 for fifth, 6 for sixth, 4 for seventh and 3 for eight. There's one additional point for advancing in every championship round, we'll give those, too.
Then there's bonus points for falls, technical falls, forfeits, majors, etc. We can't get into that. Way to hard to predict. There is also a half-point awarded for wins in consolation bracket. Gotta pass on that, too, for the same reasons.
That's OK. Looking at who is expected to finish in the top eight will suffice. Most of a team's points come from high finishes.
We'll look at who the Gophers have, plus Penn State and Iowa. One of those three should win the Big Ten.
125 pounds: Penn State has the favorite in Nico Megaludis, 23-2 and ranked No. 2 in the country by Amateur Wrestling News. The Gophers have nobody in the top 20 . ... PSU 16, Iowa 10, Gophers 0, with bonus points for advancing in the championship round, PSU 20, Iowa 12, Gophers 0.
133: Iowa has favorite in Tony Ramos,24-2 and ranked 3 nationally. David Thorn (21-4) of Gophers is ranked third among conference wrestlers. ... Iowa 16, Gophers 10, PSU 3. ... With bonus points, Iowa 20, Gophers 12, PSU 5.
141: Penn State has favorite in Zain Retherford, a freshman who is 26-0 and ranked No. 2 in the country. Chris Dardanes (22-5) of Gophers is ranked third among conference wrestlers. ... PSU 16, Gophers 10, Iowa 7. ... With bonus points, PSU 20, Gophers 12, Iowa 8.
149: The first weight one of the top three does not have the top seed. Jake Sueflohn of Nebraska, 27-3 and No. 2 nationally, comes in as the No. 1 seed. Gophers junior Nick Dardanes is seeded second. But it is also one of the toughest weights. Four conference wrestlers are ranked in the top eight in the country. ... Gophers 12, Iowa 9, PSU 7. ... With bonus points, Gophers 15, Iowa 11, PSU 8.
157: This is another killer weight in the Big Ten. Isaac Jordan of Wisconsin is the favorite and ranked No. 2 in country with a 23-4 mark. But five of the top six ranked wrestler in the country are Big Ten guys. Gopher Dylan Ness (18-4) is the second highest ranked Big Ten wrestler. ... Gophers 12, Iowa 9, PSU 7. ... With bonus points, Gophers 15, Iowa 11, PSU 8.
That's the five lowest weights, counting up the points totals, here is how the top three teams would stack up without upsets:
Iowa 62, Penn State 61, Gophers 54 ... pretty close. Bonus points for fall, technical falls, major decisions and one-half point for advances in the consolation bracket could change the order pretty easily.
Looking at the heavier weights, where the Gophers have several of their best wrestlers:
165: David Taylor of Penn State (26-0) -- No. 1 nationally -- and Nick Moore of Iowa are the two highest ranked wrestlers. The Gophers have Danny Zilverberg, seeded sixth. ... PSU 16, Iowa 12, Gophers 6. With bonus points, PSU 20, Iowa 15, Gophers 7.
174: Robert Kokesh of Nebraska is the favorite. He is 28-1 ranked No. 3 in the country. Right behind him are wrestlers from Penn State, Iowa and Gopher Logan Storley (27-3). A key weight for Gophers to do well at. ... PSU 12, Iowa 10, Gophers 9. ... With bonus points, PSU 15, Iowa 12, Gophers 11.
184: Ed Ruth of Penn State is the favorite, 25-1 and ranked No. 3 in the country. Kevin Steinhaus of the Gophers is ranked second and is 19-4. Ethan Lofthouse of Iowa is third among Big Ten wrestlers. So again top teams should bump heads here. ... PSU 16, Iowa 12, Gophers 10. ... With bonus points, PSU 20, Iowa 15, Gophers 12.
197: Morgan McIntosh of Penn State is the favorite after upsetting previously unbeaten Gopher Scott Schiller in the big dual at the Sports Pavilion. McIntosh is 25-2 and ranked No. 3 in the country. Schiller, 26-3, dropped to third among Big Ten wrestlers. ... PSU 16, Gophers 10, Iowa 7. ... With bonus points, PSU 20, Gophers 12, Iowa 8.
Hwt.: Freshman Adam Coon of Michigan is the favorite and ranked No. 1 in the country. He is 28-1. But this is another brutal weight class in the conference with seven of the top eight rated wrestlers in the country. Tony Nelson of the Gophers, the two-time defending NCAA champion, is rated fifth in the conference which should tell you something about the heavyweights. He is 22-4. ... Iowa 9, Gophers 7, PSU 4. ... With bonus points, Iowa 11, Gophers 8, PSU 5.
So here are the updated totals for the three team favorites based on seedings being totally accurate:
Penn State 132, Iowa 117, Gophers 89.
If the favorites win, the Nittany Lions would have six individuals champions and one runner-up. ... Iowa would have one champion and one runner-up. The Gophers would two runners-up.
Nebraska would have two champions and Wisconsin one.
It could conceivably happen this way but chances are much greater it won't. Individual and team titles are not won on paper, everyone knows.
But what this breakdown points out pretty clearly, is that co-Big Ten dual meet champion Penn State is still the team to beat in Madison.
Is there a scenario the Gophers win? Yes. Tony Nelson and Scott Schiller of the Gophers were rated No. 1 at heavyweight and 197, respectively, almost all season before recent losses. They could win titles at Big Ten. Dylan Ness, a recent Big Ten wrestler of the week, could surprise at 157, too. He has been wrestling well lately.
Nick Dardanes and Kevin Steinhaus, as second seeds, could be title threats.
If the Gophers get a handful of wrestlers in the finals, and win a couple of titles, they could be in the hunt. But they need a lot of things to go right for them.
Going into the Big Ten meet, they'll be underdogs.