20th-ranked Jacks face No. 16 Gophers

The South Dakota State University wrestling team resumes dual action Saturday night, traveling to Minnesota for a matchup between nationally ranked programs.

Action is set to begin at 8 p.m. at the Sports Pavilion on the University of Minnesota campus in Minneapolis. The dual can be viewed through the BTN Plus subscription service (btn2go.com).

The Jackrabbits, ranked 20th in this week’s USA Today/National Wrestling Coaches Association Poll, are 1-0 in duals after knocking off then-14th-ranked Iowa State, 27-9, on Nov. 4.

Minnesota, which is ranked 16th in this week’s coaches’ poll, will be wrestling its first dual of the season. The Golden Gophers won four titles at the Journeymen/ASICS Collegiate Classic in Troy, New York, last weekend in tournament competition.

sdsulogoSaturday’s dual could feature two matches between ranked individuals. At 174 pounds, the Jackrabbits are expected to send 15th-ranked David Kocer to the mat against Minnesota’s 18th-ranked Nick Wanzek. The 197-pound bout could be contested two top-five wrestlers — second-ranked Brett Pfarr of Minnesota and fifth-ranked Nate Rotert of SDSU.

In addition, a number of the Jackrabbits’ non-starters are scheduled to compete Saturday at the Finn Grinaker Cobber Open, which is hosted by Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota.

THE SERIES: Minnesota has held the upper hand over the Jackrabbits in dual action, leading the all-time series, which dates back to the 1949-50 season, by a 22-4 count.

SDSU’s last victory over the Golden Gophers was a 23-18 triumph during the 1974-75 campaign.

The two squads met in the Gopher Duals quadrangular last season at Williams Arena in Minneapolis, with Minnesota pulling out a 20-13 victory. SDSU led 13-12 heading into the final two matches, but the Golden Gophers picked up major decisions in the final two bouts to secure the victory.

Alex Kocer won by major decision at 149 pounds for SDSU, while Cody Pack (157), Luke Zilverberg (165) and Brady Ayers (184) each won by decision.

HOT STREAK: With their season-opening dual victory over Iowa State on Nov. 4, the Jackrabbit wrestling team continued an impressive run of success in dual meets. Dating back to December 6, 2015, when it won all three duals at the South Dakota Showcase in Sioux Falls, SDSU has won 14 of its last 15 duals.

The victories at the South Dakota Showcase began a school-record streak of 12 consecutive dual victories, which was eventually snapped on Feb. 14, 2016, with a 19-13 loss at Oklahoma. SDSU later closed the 2015-16 dual season with a 23-14 victory against North Dakota State.

RABBITS RANKED: South Dakota State is well represented both individually and as a team in rankings conducted by a number of wrestling-related media outlets.

In the individual rankings, two-time NCAA qualifier Nate Rotert is the highest-ranked Jackrabbit wrestler with a fifth-place ranking at 197 pounds by Intermat. A junior from Spearfish, Rotert also is ranked sixth by Flowrestling and seventh by Trackwrestling.

Seth Gross also appears in all three rankings, holding the seventh spot in the Intermat 133-pound rankings, while being tabbed sixth by both FloWrestling and Trackwrestling. Gross was a national qualifier in the 141-pound division last season, but is off to a 5-0 start in the 133-pound weight class during the 2016-17 campaign.

At 174 pounds, junior David Kocer cracked the rankings after a strong opening weekend in which he knocked off two ranked opponents. The Wagner native and returning national qualifier is ranked 15th by Intermat, 14th by FloWrestling and 11th by Trackwrestling. His older brother, Alex, is ranked 21st at 149 pounds by Trackwrestling, with 165-pounder Luke Zilverberg holding the 22nd spot in the Trackwrestling individual rankings for his weight class.

After being the top team to receive votes in the USA Today/National Wrestling Coaches Association preseason poll, SDSU has climbed to No. 20 in the most recent team rankings released on Nov. 14. The Jackrabbits moved up one spot this week after first cracking the rankings Nov. 7 following their season-opening dual victory over Iowa State.

SDSU also is ranked 18th by FloWrestling and 21st by Trackwrestling.

IOWA STATE DUAL RECAP: South Dakota State won two matches by technical fall and added a pair of major decisions to defeat 18th-ranked Iowa State, 27-9, in a season-opening wrestling dual for both teams Nov. 4 before a record crowd of 1,814 at Frost Arena.

The Jackrabbits, who were the top team receiving votes in the preseason USA Today/ National Wrestling Coaches Association rankings, won seven matches overall, starting with a 14-2 major decision by Luke Zilverberg over Colston DiBlasi at 165 pounds.

The 174-pound matchup featured a pair of returning national qualifiers in Iowa State’s seventh-ranked Lelund Weatherspoon and the Jackrabbits’ David Kocer. Weatherspoon recorded a second-period escape to take a 1-0 lead into the final period, but Kocer evened the match with an early escape, then recorded the lone takedown of the bout with two seconds remaining to give SDSU a 7-0 lead.

Redshirt freshman Martin Mueller gave SDSU more bonus points with a dominating 19-6 major decision over Carson Powell in which he recorded six takedowns, a reversal and a four-point near-fall.

Iowa State got on the board in the 197-pound division as Patrick Downey, the seventh-ranked wrestler at 184 pounds, wrestled up a weight class and took down the Jackrabbits’ ninth-ranked wrestler at 197, Nate Rotert, in an 8-6 decision.

SDSU closed out the first half of the dual with a 3-1 decision at heavyweight by Alex Macki over Iowa State freshman Nick Nolting.

The Jackrabbits’ Seth Gross prevented Iowa State from gaining any further momentum after the Cyclones won the 125-pound bout by turning in the first technical fall of the night with a 16-0 shutout of Nathan Boston.

Alex Kocer added the second technical fall win two bouts later with a 17-2, two-period victory over Blayne Briceno at 149 pounds, securing SDSU’s first-ever dual victory over Iowa State in 10 tries.

Colin Holler closed out the Jackrabbit victory with a 5-2 decision over Renaldo Rodriguez-Spencer at 157 pounds.

South Dakota State 27, #18 Iowa State 9
165: Luke Zilverberg (SDSU) major dec., Colston DiBlasi (ISU), 14-2
174: David Kocer (SDSU) dec. #7 Lelund Weatherspoon (ISU), 3-1
184: Martin Mueller (SDSU) major dec. Carson Powell (ISU), 19-6
197: Patrick Downey III (ISU) dec. #9 Nate Rotert (SDSU), 8-6 [Note: Downey ranked 7th at 184]
285: Alex Macki (SDSU) dec. Nick Nolting (ISU), 3-1
125: Kyle Larson (ISU) dec. Ben Gillette (SDSU), 6-1
133: #6 Seth Gross (SDSU) tech. fall Nathan Boston (ISU), 16-0 (7:00)
141: John Meeks (ISU) dec. Henry Pohlmeyer (SDSU), 5-3
149: Alex Kocer (SDSU) tech. fall Blayne Briceno (ISU), 17-2 (5:00)
157: Colin Holler (SDSU) dec. Renaldo Rodriguez-Spencer (ISU), 5-2

WRESTLER OF THE WEEK: South Dakota State 174-pounder David Kocer captured the first Big 12 Conference Wrestler of the Week award of the 2016-17 season, league officials announced on Nov. 7

A junior from Wagner and a returning NCAA qualifier, Kocer put together a 4-1 record over two events, including defeating two ranked opponents, during the opening weekend of the season. He recorded a takedown with two seconds remaining in his Nov. 4 dual match against seventh-ranked Lelund Weatherspoon of Iowa State to pull out a 3-1 victory and help spark the Jackrabbits to a 27-9 team win.

At the Warren Williamson/Daktronics Open on Nov. 6, Kocer turned in a runner-up finish. He recorded technical falls in his first two matches before defeating 14th-ranked Micah Barnes of Nebraska by a 3-1 decision in the semifinals. Kocer fell to 15th-ranked Zahid Valencia of Arizona State in the finals.

COACH BONO: Chris Bono has engineered a successful rebuilding process during his tenure as head coach of the South Dakota State University wrestling program

Now in his fifth season, Bono has helped mentor Jackrabbit wrestlers to qualify for the NCAA Championships 12 times, including a program-best five wrestlers during the 2015-16 season.

In dual competition, Bono has led the Jackrabbits to a 37-34 record that includes back-to-back winning seasons for the first time at the Division I level. Bono’s career dual record stands at 76-51, including a highly successful three-year run at Chattanooga.

The Jackrabbits entered a new era during the 2015-16 season by joining the Big 12 Conference as an affiliate member. After dropping early season duals to nationally ranked Virginia Tech, Oklahoma State and Iowa, the Jackrabbits reeled off a school-record 12 consecutive dual victories that propelled them into the top 25 of the Division I team rankings for the first time.

At the 2016 Big 12 Championship, SDSU turned in a fourth-place finish as Seth Gross (141 pounds), Cody Pack (157) and Nate Rotert (197) all finished as runners-up in their respective weight classes. That Jackrabbit trio were joined by brothers Alex and David Kocer from the 149- and 174-pound weight classes, respectively, as qualifiers for the NCAA Championships in New York City.

Four of the five Jackrabbit wrestlers won at least one match at the NCAA Championships as the Jackrabbits finished in a tie for 39th place. Gross and Pack each finished one win away from achieving All-America status. Pack was making his fourth consecutive appearance at the NCAA Championships.

While leading the Jackrabbits, Bono was also tabbed as coach for the U.S. Men’s Freestyle team at the 2013 Pan American Championships. In the world event, Bono led Team USA to a 13-point victory.

Under Bono’s leadership, the Jackrabbit wrestling program has consistently raised the bar in promoting the sport through innovative social media strategies. SDSU has received the Gold Standard honor from the National Wrestling Coaches Association and Elite Level Sport Marketing two times as part of their Best of Brand Awards.

His teams also have performed well in the classroom, placing in the top 25 for team grade-point average in rankings compiled by the National Wrestling Coaches Association each of the past two seasons. Individually, eight Jackrabbits wrestlers were honored on the 2016 Academic All-Big 12 Conference Wrestling Team.

Bono joined the UTC staff in 2005 after serving nine years as an assistant coach at Iowa State. He was the Cyclones’ head assistant coach for five seasons.

Bono lettered at Iowa State from 1994-97 and ranks fifth on the program’s all-time wins list with 130 victories. He won the NCAA 150-pound title as a junior and was a four-time NCAA participant. Bono won the Big Eight title as a junior and was named the Most Outstanding Wrestler at the inaugural Big 12 Conference Championship in 1997.

He later served as an assistant coach at Iowa State for nine years, including holding the title of head assistant coach for five seasons before moving on to Chattanooga.

Bono earned his bachelor’s degree in exercise and sports science from Iowa State in 1997.

THE ROSTER: The 2016-17 SDSU wrestling roster features 27 student-athletes from eight different states. Of the 27 wrestlers, nine are from South Dakota, seven are from Minnesota and four are from Iowa. California and Illinois are represented by two wrestlers each, while Colorado, Kansas and Ohio each have one wrestler.

By class, three are seniors, seven are juniors, four are sophomores, six are redshirt freshmen and seven are true freshmen.

A LOOK AHEAD: The Jackrabbits will be away from competition over the Thanksgiving holiday, returning to action Dec. 2 by hosting a dual against perennial national title contender Iowa. Competition begins at 7 p.m. at Frost Arena.

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