The South Dakota State University wrestling team will open the 2016-17 season with a pair of home events this weekend at Frost Arena.
The Jackrabbits kick off the season by hosting 14th-ranked Iowa State in dual action at 7 p.m. Friday. SDSU wrestling alumni will be honored at intermission of the Big 12 Conference matchup.
Starting when gates open at 6 p.m., the first 100 students attending the dual will receive complimentary pizza in the west student section. Students also can register for a $500 Cubby’s gift card, with the winner announced at intermission.
The weekend of action concludes with the Warren Williamson/Daktronics Open on Sunday. Nearly 200 wrestlers are expected to compete in the day-long event, which begins at 9 a.m. The tournament field includes wrestlers from SDSU, Iowa State, Minnesota, Nebraska and Arizona State, along with several regional Division II and NAIA programs.
Both events will be available for viewing through the Flowrestling.org subscription service.
IOWA STATE SERIES: South Dakota State will be in search of its first-ever dual victory over Iowa State as the two programs meet for the first time as Big 12 Conference opponents. The Cyclones have won all nine previous matchups dating back to a 27-2 victory during the 1951-52 season.
The two programs last meet during the 2009-10 season in Ames, Iowa, with Iowa State recording a 43-3 victory.
RABBITS RANKED: South Dakota State is well represented both individually and as a team in preseason rankings by a number of wrestling-related media outlets.
In the individual rankings, sophomore Seth Gross is the highest-rated Jackrabbit wrestler with a sixth-place showing in the 133-pound division in both the Flowrestling and Trackwrestling preseason polls. Gross also is ranked seventh in the Intermat preseason rankings.
Two-time NCAA qualifier Nate Rotert also appears in all three rankings. The junior 197-pounder from Spearfish stands ninth in both the Flowrestling and Trackwrestling rankings, while carrying an 11th-place ranking in the Intermat poll.
SDSU’s two other returning national qualifiers, brothers and Wagner natives Alex and David Kocer are ranked 23rd and 25th, respectively, at 149 and 174 pounds in the Trackwrestling preseason rankings. In addition, Luke Zilverberg is tabbed at the 24th-best wrestler at 165 pounds.
In the Trackwrestling preseason team rankings, SDSU has been tabbed 25th.
The Jackrabbits are one of four Big 12 Conference teams ranked in the top 25, which is headlined by defending league champion Oklahoma State in the top spot. Also appearing in the top 25 are Iowa State in 11th place and Wyoming at No. 23. SDSU will host Iowa State in dual action Friday at Frost Arena to open the 2016-17 season.
SDSU also scheduled to square off against three other squads in the top 25 during dual action. Perennial national title contender Iowa is third, Virginia Tech is ranked fifth and Minnesota is No. 15.
Trackwrestling’s team rankings are based off the number of advancement and placement points each squad would accumulate if its wrestlers finished in those ranking slots at the NCAA Championships.
Also in team rankings, the Jackrabbits begin the 2016-17 season just out of the top 25 of the USA Today/National Wrestling Coaches Association preseason poll. SDSU is the top team receiving votes.
SEASON PREVIEW: Expectations are at an all-time high for the South Dakota State University wrestling team as it enters the 2016-17 season.
After four years of steady growth under head coach Chris Bono, the Jackrabbits are ready to take the next step. For Bono, that means having Jackrabbit wrestlers not only contending for, but winning, Big 12 Conference titles and bringing home All-America accolades.
The Jackrabbits return eight starters from last year’s squad that compiled a 14-6 dual record and sent a program-best five wrestlers to the NCAA Division I Championships.
Leading the way is Seth Gross. A sophomore from Apple Valley, Minnesota, Gross is expected to drop down to the 133-pound class after wrestling at 141 pounds during the 2015-16 season. In his first season with the Jackrabbits, Gross compiled a 26-14 overall record, finished as runner-up at the Big 12 Conference Championship and recorded the highest finish by a Jackrabbit at the 2016 national meet, falling one win shy of earning All-America honors.
Gross competed in the 60-kilogram (132-pound) division in UWW national and international competition during the recent offseason. He finished as runner-up at the UWW Junior Freestyle Nationals in April, then earned a spot on the United States Men’s Freestyle Team for the UWW Junior World Championships by winning his weight class at the World Team Trials.
With Gross dropping down a weight class, redshirt freshman Henry Pohlmeyer is the leading candidate to hold the 141-pound position in the lineup. Pohlmeyer showed promise in open tournaments last season in his first collegiate season, winning a pair of titles and posting a 16-5 record with 11 of his wins coming by fall.
Another redshirt freshman who could crack the lineup is 184-pounder Martin Mueller. With incumbent Brady Ayers possibly taking his redshirt season, Mueller could be counted on to fortify the lineup in the upper weight after posing an 8-2 mark in open competition a year ago.
About the only other question mark in the Jackrabbit lineup is at 157 pounds, where junior Colin Holler and redshirt freshman Brett Bye will battle to replace four-time national qualifier Cody Pack. Holler has been a spot starter during his Jackrabbit career, but was limited to four matches last season. Bye recorded three top-three tournament finishes in open competition while wrestling at 165 pounds.
The remainder of the lineup remains intact from a season ago. Seniors Ben Gillette and Alex Kocer return at 125 and 149 pounds, respectively, with juniors Luke Zilverberg (165), David Kocer (174), Nate Rotert (197) and Alex Macki (heavyweight) all returning after being mainstays in the 2015-16 lineup.
Alex Kocer made his second appearance at the NCAA?Championships in three seasons last March, finishing with a 24-12 overall mark. He posted a 14-5 record in duals and was the first Jackrabbit to earn a Big 12 Conference Wrestler of the Week award.
Gillette solidified the Jackrabbit lineup with a 20-13 overall record after dropping down to 125 pounds at the start of the calendar year.
David Kocer led the team with 30 victories last season as he made his first NCAA?appearance in the 174-pound division. He turned in runner-up finishes at the Warren Williamson/Daktronics Open and Cyclone Open early in the 2015-16 campaign.
Rotert qualified for the national meet for the second year in a row at 197 pounds and compiled a 27-11 record, including a 12-5 mark in duals. He was victorious at the Cyclone open after a runner-up finish at the season-opening Warren Wiliamson/Daktronics Open, and later advanced to the title match at the Big 12 Conference Championship.
Zilverberg was won of seven Jackrabbit wrestlers to win 20 or more matches a season ago, posting a 22-12 record after moving up to 165 after previously wrestling at 149 pounds. Zilverberg won seven matches by major decision to rank second on the team in that category behind David Kocer’s nine.
Macki turned in an 8-19 record in his first season as the starter at heavyweight.
COACH BONO: Chris Bono has engineered a successful rebuilding process during his tenure as head coach of the South Dakota State University wrestling program.
Entering 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 36-34 record that includes back-to-back winning seasons for the first time at the Division I level. Bono’s career dual record stands at 75-51, 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 continue open competition by sending a contingent of wrestlers to the Bison Open on Nov. 12 in Fargo, North Dakota. The day-long competition will be held at Scheels Arena.