Roman Augustoviz spends Minnesota's winters covering college hockey, specifically the Gophers, and other University of Minnesota sports. During the summer, he writes about the WNBA's Minnesota Lynx, with a dose of U sports sprinkled in. Follow him on Twitter @RomanStrib.
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.
To be a Division I athlete in any sport has to be fulfilling.
But today, it's got to be especially nice to be a Gophers softball player. Fourth-year coach Jessica Allister has taken her squad to Baton Rouge, La., for a season-opening tournament. Allister needs two wins to reach 100 at the U of M.
Yes, they are out of the cold and snow for a while. Highs for the tournament are supposed to reach the low 60s. And everybody has to be excited. It's a team loaded with talent.
Three first-team, All-Big Ten players are the core of the team. In the circle most games will be senior Sara Moulton. She's in the top three in program history in wins with 85, strikeouts with 940 and innings with 807.2. Last season she was 32-12 with a 1.57 ERA and 308 strikeouts.
You have to have a pitcher in softball and the Gophers do.
You also have to be able to score a few runs. That's where the other two returning all-conference players come in. One is third baseman Kaitlyn Richardson, who is on the watch list for national player of the year. She hit .430 last season with 10 homers and 43 RBI. So she has some pop in her bat.
So does shortstop Tyler Walker who hit .379 with 12 homers and 32 RBI.
Those two batted leadoff and third in the Gophers' lineup. Their season came to an end when Minnesota lost 3-0 to Hawaii in the NCAA tournament on May 18 in Seattle.
The Gophers finished 36-19, 14-6 and tied for third in the Big Ten.
This team, on paper, should be better. Fourteen players return. Only two starters graduated, catcher Kari Dorle and designated player Alex Davis.
The infield is all back, the outfield is all back.
Here is the Gophers' schedule the first weekend in LSU's Tiger Classic:
Murray St., 3 p.m.
LSU, 5 p.m. ... Tigers are rated No. 17 in USA Today poll
Southern Illinois, 9 a.m.
Central Arkansas, 11 a.m.
Oklahoma State, 11 a.m.
After the trip to LSU, the Gophers make trips to Las Vegas, Greensboro, N.C., Tempe, Ariz., Stillwater, Okla., Conway, S.C., and Lincoln, Neb.
Then, weather permitting, they open at home March 28-30 versus Illinois.
They start so early because they have a 56-game regular-season to get in by May 4.
LAKE PLACID, N.Y. -- Forty-four hockey players from across the country will try to make a quick, good first impression over the next couple of days at the national junior evaluation camp at the Olympic Training Center.
If they don't impress, they will be gone.
The 44 players will be divided into two teams, Blue and White, and play games against Finland and Sweden.
On Aug. 6, Gophers coach Don Lucia and his staff, will cut the roster in half and the camp will continue with games against the same two opponents, plus Canada.
Eventually, the top players at this camp will get together again in December for the World Junior Championships. Lucia will be the head coach of that team.
The Blue team has four Minnesotans: defensemen Brady Skjei of Lakeville and Gage Ausmus of East Grand Forks, and forwards Hudson Fasching of Burnsville and Dominic Toninato of Duluth.
Skjei will be a sophomore for the Gophers this coming season, Fasching a freshman. Skjei was one of the last players cut from the U.S. team which won the gold medal in Ufa, Russia, at the 2013 World Juniors. He should be a strong candidate to stick this time.
Both Fasching and Ausmus played for the under-18 U.S. national team last season. Ausmus has committed to North Dakota. Toninato, who is going to Minnesota Duluth this fall, played for the Fargo Force of the USHL last season.
The White team at Lake Placid has six Minnesotans, including three who will be freshmen at the U: defensemen Mike Brodzinski of Ham Lake and Tom Vannelli of Minnetonka and forward Taylor Cammarata of Plymouth.
Brodzinski played for Muskegon of the USHL last season, Vannelli split time between Minnetonka High School and the under-18 U.S. team and Cammarata led the USHL in scoring playing with Waterloo.
Other state-raised players on the White team are goalie Collin Olson of Apple Valley, forward Jake Guentzel of Woodbury and forward Zach Stepan of Hastings.
Olson will be a sophomore at Ohio State this season, Guentzel, the son of Gophers associate head coach Mike Guentzel, played for Sioux City of the USHL, and Stepan was a linemate of Cammarata's at Waterloo.
Guentzel will be a freshman at Nebraska-Omaha, where his father recently coached before returning to the U. Stepan will be a freshman at Minnesota State Mankato.
Sat., Aug. 3
USA Blue Practice, 8 - 8:45 a.m. (CDT)
USA White Practice 9 - 9:45 a.m.
Sweden Practice 10 - 11:30 a.m.
Finland Practice 11:45 a.m. - 1:15 p.m.
USA White/Blue Practice 4 - 5 p.m.
Sun., Aug. 4
Sweden Practice 7:15 - 7:45 a.m.
USA Blue Practice 8 - 8:30 a.m.
Finland Practice 8:45 - 9:15 a.m.
USA White vs. Sweden 12 p.m.
USA Blue vs. Finland 3 p.m.
Mon., Aug. 5
USA White Practice 8 - 8:30 a.m.
Finland Practice 8:45 - 9:15 a.m.
USA Blue vs. Sweden 12 p.m.
USA White vs. Finland 3 p.m.
Days to Gophers' first game in Ice Breaker vs. Mercyhurst: 70
Days until first practice, presumably Sat., Oct. 5: 64
College and state hockey preseason blog No. 4.
One thing the new Big Ten Conference in hockey has going for it is strong fan support.
Four of the top 10 programs in average attendance last season will be members of the Big Ten in 2013-14.
The Gophers were second in average attendance, Wisconsin third, Michigan State eighth and Michigan 10th. The other two members of the Big Ten will be Ohio State and Penn State.
The only other conference close to the Big Ten in turnstile numbers is the new National Collegiate Hockey Conference. The eight-team league also had four teams in the top 10 in attendance last season, including No. 1 North Dakota, which averaged 11,592 fans for 21 home dates.
2012-13 Average Attendance Leaders
1. North Dakota 11,592
2. Minnesota 9,950
3. Wisconsin 9,521
4. Nebraska Omaha 7,233
5. Colorado College 6,979
6. Boston College 6,384
7. Minnesota Duluth 6,206
8. Michigan State 5,869
9. New Hampshire 5,521
10. Michigan 5,357
9 MINNESOTANS INVITED TO U18 WOMEN'S CAMP
Almost a third of the 30 players inited to the U.S. women's under-18 evaluation camps in Lake Placid, N.Y., from Aug. 22-25 are Minnesotans.
Defenseman Sydney Baldwin of Shorewood (Minnetonka HS) and forward Taylor Williamson of Edina (Edina HS) attended the camp a year ago and played against Canada in a series that followed.
Those two and forward Maliya Rodgers of Minnetonka (Minnesota Junior White Caps) played on the U.S. team that won a silver medal in the U18 World Championships in January in Finland.
Rodgers is a third Minnesotan with a camp invite. The other six are:
* Goalies Erin O'Neil of Minnetonka (Hopkins HS) and Maddie Rooney of Andover (Andover HS)
* Defensemen Grace Bizal, Minnetonka (Hopkins HS), Mary Kate Hallet, Edina (St. Paul United) and Patricia Marshall, Thief River Falls (Shattuck-St. Mary's)
* Forward McKenna Brand, Nevis, Minn. (North American Hockey Academy)
Two staff members are also from Minnesota: Joel Johnson, White Bear Lake, video coordinator, and Dean Thibodeau, St. Cloud, hockey operations assistant.
* The Gophers' web site still does not list whom they will play in the first game of the 2013 Ice Breaker. But Mercyhurst's site does. The Lakers of Atlantic Hockey will play the U of M at Mariucci on Oct. 11.
Clarkson's site concurs. It has the Golden Knights playing New Hampshire in the other first-round game. UNH has the same pairing in the early game.
Which all makes sense. If the Gophers and the New Hampshire Wildcats of Hockey East both win, the two strongest teams in the field, based on records last season, will meet in the championship game.
* The Texas Tornado of Frisco, Texas, is pulling up roots and the NAHL franchise is moving south to the Dallas-Ft. Worth area. It will play in the suburb of North Richland Hills and be known as the Lone Star Brahmas.
* Denver recently added three more players for this season: F Emil Romig of Vienna, Austria; D Nick Neville of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., and G Greg Ogard of Wilmette, Ill.
Romig had 17 goals and 37 assists for 54 points in 54 games with Corpus Christi of the NAHL. ... Neville played the past two seasons with the Texas Tornado and had 12 goals and 52 assists in 119 games. ... Ogard had a 2.84 GAA and a .925 save percentage with Bay State of the Eastern Junior Hockey league last season. The Pios will have nine freshmen, including Matt Van Voorhis of Edina.
* Second-year St. Cloud State AD Heather Weems has started a monthly blog, called Words with Weems. The first blog reviews what happened in the 2012-13 school year in athletics with the Huskies.
Days to Gophers' first game in Ice Breaker: 71
Days until first practice, presumably Sat., Oct. 5: 65
College and state hockey preseason blog No. 3.
Junior defenseman Nate Schmidt was named the Gophers' MVP for the 2012-13 season.
Schmidt, of St. Cloud, was a second-team all-american and a first team all-WCHA pick after scoring nine goals and collecting 23 assists. His 32 points were the most of any WCHA defenseman and ranked third nationally among blue-liners.
He also has been the best quote on the team for several seasons. Reporters covering the team will miss him. Schmidt, a 6-0, 194-pound free agent, signed with the Washington Capitals shortly after the Gophers' season ended, giving up his last year of eligibility.
Goalie Adam Wilcox received three awards -- more than anyone else. He wasnamed the team's top rookie -- a no-brainer there -- the MVP of the playoffs and also got the community service award.
Wilcox, of South St. Paul, was a third team all-WCHA pick. He set a program record for the lowest single-season, goals-against average at 1.88. His 23 wins tied the rookie progream record and he was a workhorse. He played 2,331 minutes, the third most in the nation.
Captain Zach Budish, a redshirt junior, received the leadership and sportsmanship award. He had 14 goals and 36 points, both career highs.
Sophomore winger Kyle Rau was named the most determined player. He was second on the team in scoring wtih 15 goals and 25 assists for 40 points. He had seven game-winning goals, which tied him for first in the nation.
Junior forward Nate Condon was named the outstanding student-athlete. He had 12 goals and 31 points.
Sophomore Justin Holl, who split his time between defenseman and forward, was named the team's unsung hero. He had three goals and seven points.
The Gophers were 16-7-5 in conference games, good enough to tie St. Cloud State for first place, so the two shared the MacNaughton Cup. They finished 26-9-5 overall, losing to eventual NCAA champion Yale 3-2 in overtime in their opening NCAA tournament game.
The team has not announced a new captain nor the assistant captains for next season yet.
This is Offseason Blog 1 for the summer.
* St. Cloud State has started selling season tickets for the 2013-14 season, the Huskies' first in the new National Collegiate Hockey Conference. For a chairback seat, the price is $400. For a bleacher seat, it is $275, or $250 for SCSU faculty and staff.
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