We have officially turned the calendar page over to 2020, and with that several of the Minnesota Golden Gophers non-revenue sports are beginning their competition schedules. Some like women’s hockey, basketball and wrestling have been going for a while now, but we have the debut of several highly ranked Gopher squads in women’s gymnastics and indoor track and field this weekend! Here is a review of the seasons thus far for those teams who have begun play, and a preview for those beginning their competition seasons this weekend!
The annual belles of the ball, the Gophers women’s hockey team yet again is sitting pretty as they enter the second half of their season. Minnesota is the #2 ranked team in the nation behind only their annual rival, the Wisconsin Badgers. With half of the WCHA season complete, the Gophers are in second place in the conference with 30 points, just one behind the Badgers. Minnesota actually had had early success this year against Wisconsin winning and picking up a tie and OT shootout bonus point when the Badgers were at Ridder in November.
Minnesota is coming off of their final non-conference series of the season last weekend where they swept the Yale Bulldogs at Ridder. Sarah Potomak was given the WCHA Player of the Week Award after a four point performance against Yale. Freshman defenseman Madeline Wethington was awarded the WCHA Freshman of the Week award for her three point performance against the Bulldogs in a pair of 6-3 and 4-1 wins.
Minnesota opens the second half of WCHA play this weekend with a series in St. Cloud against the Huskies. The Gophers are 89-3-3 all time against St. Cloud, and have won ten straight games. Minnesota swept a two game series between the two teams at Ridder back in October. The games this weekend will face off at 6:07 Friday night and 3:07 Saturday afternoon from the National Hockey Center in St. Cloud.
Minnesota’s schedule will get much tougher the next two weeks when they host Ohio State at home next weekend—which includes an outdoor game at during Hockey Day In Minnesota next Saturday. They then make the return trip to Madison to face the #1 Badgers the week after that.
After another great non-conference portion of the schedule, the Gopher women’s basketball team has once again hit a bit of a brick wall once the Big Ten portion of the schedule has come around. Minnesota began the season with a 10-1 record losing just their season opener to a ranked Missouri State squad. Minnesota then won their Big Ten opener 81-74 on the road at Penn State—but also had to hang on for dear life down the stretch after blowing at one point at 35 point lead late in the second quarter. It was a potential warning sign as Minnesota has now lost their last three Big Ten games in a row including a home loss to Northwestern Thursday night 56-54.
The Gophers had a one point lead at the half over Northwestern, but couldn’t keep up in the third quarter getting outscored 19-10. Minnesota came back in the fourth quarter, the majority played without star Destiny Pitts who left the game with 7:30 left in the fourth quarter and did not return to action. Minnesota tied the game at 54 on a Jasmine Brunson three pointer with four seconds left in regulation, but would give up a game winning layup to Northwestern with just 0.6 seconds left to fall 56-54. Highlights are below:
Gopher coach confirmed on the post-game radio interview that Pitts was not removed from the game due to illness or injury—which is a bit concerning to say the least. The Gophers will attempt to get back in gear when they head to Illinois Sunday at 2PM in the game that will air live on BTN.
The Gopher wrestling team will kick off the Big Ten duel meet season Friday night when they host Wisconsin at 8 PM. The duel will air live on BTN. Minnesota is bringing back Gopher legend Brock Lesnar to serve as a honorary assistant coach for the match as the team honors the 20th anniversary of his Heavyweight NCAA Championship.
BROCK PARTY— Minnesota Wrestling (@GopherWrestling) January 6, 2020
WWE and UFC Champion Brock Lesnar is set to join the #Gophers on Friday as an honorary coach while the program celebrates the 20th anniversary of his 2000 NCAA Heavyweight Title!
〽️: https://t.co/RdJgaykKSL pic.twitter.com/44uNZKvgc6
Minnesota has a 5-3 record in the non-conference duels season with wins over CSU Bakersfield, South Dakota State, Old Dominion, Duke, and Cornell. The Gophers three losses came to Lehigh, #1 at the time Oklahoma State, and Rider.
Minnesota’s team was boosted by the return of sophomore heavyweight Gable Steveson to action in December. He has jumped right back into action and is undefeated and currently ranked the #2 heavyweight in the nation. He will have a big match against Wisconsin’s #5 ranked Trent Hillger Friday night. Steveson’s path to a potential NCAA Championship may have also opened as well as the only wrestler to defeat him thus far in his college career, Penn State’s Anthony Cassar, and the 2019 NCAA Champion saw his season ended due to an injury. The 2020 NCAA Championships will take place at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis in March.
The #14 ranked Minnesota women’s gymnastics team will begin their 2020 season Sunday afternoon at #2 Denver. Minnesota returns a loaded team from 2019 where they finished fourth in the Big Ten Championships and earned an NCAA Regionals berth for the 24th straight season. They were ranked #2 in the Big Ten Preseason Poll behind only Michigan.
The Gophers had five members of the team earn All-Big Ten honors in 2019, and all five return to the team in 2020. Minnesota is led by Junior Lexi Ramler who finished in second place in the All-Around at the NCAA Championships last April. She ended her season last year ranked #8 in the National Rankings in the all-around. She also added top-25 rankings on bars ( T-7), beam (No. 7) and vault (T-7).
Joining Ramler in returning are Regular Season All-American Ivy Lu, Paige Williams, Ona Loper, and Tiarre Sales. Minnesota also adds a transfer from Denver Maddie Quarles who could play a large role this season.
The meet against Denver begins at 3PM on Sunday and can be streamed HERE.
The Gophers open their 2020 season Saturday night at the Rocky Mountain Invitational in Colorado Springs. Minnesota opens the 2020 season ranked #6 in the nation and will take on #2 Oklahoma,#5 Nebraska, #13 Air Force, #17 Washington and the team from the US Olympic Training Center.
Unlike the women’s squad, the Gopher men will have many different newcomers to try and crack the lineup. Fourteen of Minnesota’s 19 gymnasts are underclassmen. One of those freshmen is Crew Bold who was named a Gymnast to Watch and was named to the U.S. Junior National Team over the summer after earning top-10 finishes on all events, including third place in the all-around and high bar and fourth on rings and parallel bars at the National Championships.
Minnesota does return NCAA runner-up Shane Wiskus. He will be a favorite to potentially win the NCAA title this season after a summer where he competed with the US Senior National Team and hit all of his routines en route to a fourth-place team finish for the U.S at the World Championships.
Indoor Track and Field:
The Gophers Indoor Track and Field teams kick off the 2020 season by hosting the Minnesota Open this Saturday. The Gophers will be beginning the season with a target on their backs as they have some of their highest ranked teams and individuals in some time.
The Gopher women are ranked #7 in the nation entering the season. Individually, Minnesota has the #1 women’s long jumper in the nation in Ayesha Champagnie. She is also ranked #17 in the pentathlon. Hannah Arason is ranked #30 in the pentathlon. The Gopher women have four of the nation’s top 32 athletes in the shot put. Devia Brown is ranked #3. Nayoka Clunis is ranked #7, Tess Keyzers is #17, and Shay Nielsen is #32. Clunis and Keyzers are also ranked #12 and #14 respectively in the weight throw. The Hasz sisters contine to impress in the long didtance running events. Bethany Hasz ranks fourth in the 5,000-meter run and 27th in the 3,000 meters while her sister Megan is 16th in the 5,000 meters.
On the men’s side the Gophers team is ranked #30 in the nation. The Gophers have three athletes ranked in the top 30 in the weight throw. Kieran McKeag is ranked 4th, Jon Nerdal is ranked #14, and Connor Rousemiller is ranked #28. Minnesota also has two ranked helpathletes as Teddy Freid is #11 while Ben Ose is #25. The Gopher men have four more ranked athletes in individual events as Jonathan Tharaldsen is #11 in the shot put, Michael Burke is #14 in the high jump, Alec Basten is #23 in the 5,000 meters and Dawson LaRance is #33 in the 800 meters.
Swimming and Diving:
The Gopher swimming and diving team make a hard brutal road trip this weekend for a duel meet at....Hawaii. Oh those poor things. It’s not been a great start to the season for the Gopher swim teams as the Men sit at 0-4 in the duel season while the women are 1-3. Despite the records the women’s team still is ranked #24 in the nation while the men are receiving votes. The Gopher swim teams are 11-0 all time against Hawaii, so they will look to keep that perfect record intact Saturday.
Next week both the men’s and women’s tennis teams once again resume play, and both softball and baseball officially start practice in the next week before they start playing games in February.