Penn State swims past U at Big Tens

by David La

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — The Gophers men’s swimming team overcame a first-day disqualification in the 200 freestyle relay to win four relays and four individual events, but still came up short at the Big Ten swimming and diving championships.
First-time champion Penn State won the meet with only two winning performances — freshman Bob Molettiere in the 100 freestyle and the team’s inheritance of the 200 free relay after Minnesota’s early jump.
“Coming into a meet like this, you don’t plan on winning it unless you’ve won before,” Penn State coach Peter Brown said. “I feel that to beat them (Minnesota and Michigan), you’re in pretty good company.”
The top three teams finished in very close company, separated by a mere 24.5 points. Second-place Minnesota, while failing to repeat as champions, took some solace in staying ahead of third-place Michigan for another year.
“We knew with about three events to go it looked like we weren’t going to catch Penn State,” Dale said. “But our guys knew that if they didn’t swim well we’d lose to Michigan, too, and they didn’t want that to happen.”
After a shaky first day, the Gophers rebounded with an incredible second day that included wins in both the 200 medley and 800 free relay, the former setting a Big Ten record.
Sophomore Alex Massura’s win in the 100 backstroke — the first ever for a Gophers swimmer –automatically qualified him for NCAA competition.
Senior Martin Zielinski touched out fellow senior John Cahoy by 15 hundredths of a second as the teammates took the top two spots in the 100 butterfly.
Finally, sophomore Dan Croaston was victorious in the 3-meter diving competition, an upset over Indiana’s Mike Collier, who won the 1-meter title the previous day.
“I’m speechless,” Croaston said. “I didn’t have a very good first dive, but I pulled through and pulled my dives together.”
“I think coming into tonight we needed a spark, and I think we’ve been given that,” Gophers assistant coach Kelly Kramer said on Friday. “Hopefully we can keep it going another day.”
Saturday featured the Gophers winning their fourth consecutive Big Ten title in the 400 free relay, but Minnesota could not keep it going in enough individual events. The Gophers received no points in the 1,650 free event, thanks in part to last week’s suspension of junior Bill Bishop for what Dale called a “violation of team and department policy.” Bishop finished forth in the 1,650 at the Big Tens last year.
Though it was without Bishop, an All-Big Ten performer last year, Minnesota was well-represented this year with nine All-Big Ten selections. In addition, the Gophers’ Croaston won co-Diver of the Championships, and Massura was voted co-Swimmer of the Year.
“Our goal now is to get top-10 at NCAAs,” Massura said. “I think that will be worth more than second place here.”
While Dale was somewhat stung by the squandered opportunity to win this weekend, he was satisfied with the large number of winning performances. Dale is also looking ahead to his team finishing the season up to its potential.
“We won more races than we’ve ever won at Big Tens,” Dale said. “Now we go to NCAAs. Hopefully we’re going to be hungry.”

Big Ten men’s swimming and diving championships
Team order of finish:
1. Penn State 600
2. Minnesota 588
3. Michigan 576.5
4. Wisconsin 375
5. Indiana 324
6. Northwestern 265.5
7. Ohio State 261
8. Purdue 252
9. Iowa 204
10. Michigan State 133