The South Dakota State University wrestling team will travel west this weekend for a pair of Big 12 Conference duals.
The 20th-ranked Jackrabbits enter action Friday night at Wyoming with a 6-2 overall dual record, including a 2-0 mark against Big 12 foes. The dual is slated for 7 p.m. Mountain Time (8 p.m. Central) at the UniWyo Federal Credit Union Sports Complex in Laramie.
Wyoming, which has four wrestlers ranked individually in the top 20 by Intermat, has posted a 1-4 dual record so far this season, including a 1-0 mark against Big 12 competition.
On Sunday, the Jackrabbits will square off against Air Force at Clune Arena on the U.S. Air Force Academy campus near Colorado Springs. Action begins at 11 a.m. Mountain Time (noon Central). The Falcons enter the weekend with a 4-1 overall record and will make their season debut against Big 12 competition Friday at Utah Valley.
THE WYOMING SERIES: Friday’s dual will mark the 18th meeting on the mat between South Dakota State, a series that dates back to the 1953-54 season. Wyoming holds a 15-2 series advantage, with both Jackrabbit victories coming in two of the last three meetings. SDSU pulled out an 18-17 triumph on Jan. 19, 2014, in Gillette, Wyoming, then posted a 22-15 home victory on Jan. 29, 2016.
In last season’s meeting, the Jackrabbits raced out to a 10-0 lead through three matches, starting with a major decision by David Kocer at 174 pounds and a 6-5 come-from-behind victory by 184-pounder Brady Ayers. SDSU secured the dual victory with a pair of one-point decisions by Alex Kocer at 149 pounds and Cody Pack at 157 pounds.
South Dakota State 22, Wyoming 15 (Jan. 29, 2016)
174: David Kocer (SDSU) major dec. Jace Jensen (WYO), 13-3
184: Brady Ayers (SDSU) dec. Ben Stroh (WYO), 6-5
197: #14 Nate Rotert (SDSU) dec. Brandon Tribble (WYO), 6-2
285: Tanner Harms (WYO) major dec. Alex Macki (SDSU), 13-0
125: Ben Gillette (SDSU) won by medical forfeit
133: Drake Foster (WYO) dec. Brance Simms (SDSU), 9-5
141: #14 Bryce Meredith (WYO) dec. Seth Gross (SDSU), 6-4
149: Alex Kocer (SDSU) dec. Cole Mendenhall (WYO), 5-4
157: #6 Cody Pack (SDSU) dec. Archie Colgan (WYO), 1-0
165: Chaz Polson (WYO) tech. fall Logan Peterson (SDSU), 16-0 (2:55)
THE AIR FORCE SERIES: In a series dating back to the 1992-93 season, Air Force holds a 9-4 advantage over the Jackrabbits in dual competition. The Falcons and SDSU have met each season since the 2004-05 campaign, when both became charter members of the Western Wrestling Conference. Air Force won seven consecutive matchups between the 2006-07 and 2012-13 seasons, but the Jackrabbits have won the last three meetings, starting with an 18-14 win on Jan. 26, 2014, at Frost Arena.
In last year’s dual, SDSU won five of the first six matches, highlighted by a pin from Seth Gross, en route to a 23-15 win at Frost Arena. David Kocer and Ben Gillette each added major decisions for the Jackrabbits.
South Dakota State 23, Air Force 15 (Jan. 24, 2016)
125: Ben Gillette (SDSU) major dec. Drew Romero (AF), 15-4
133: Josh Martinez (AF) def. #17 Brance Simms (SDSU), by fall 6:00
141: Seth Gross (SDSU) def. Dylan Hyder (AF), by fall 2:50
149: Alex Kocer (SDSU) dec. Alex Mossing (AF), 12-9
157: #6 Cody Pack (SDSU) dec. Zach Stepan (AF), 10-6
165: Alex Lopouchanski (AF) dec. Logan Peterson (SDSU), 7-3
174: David Kocer (SDSU) major dec. Zen Ikehara (AF), 19-6
184: Anthony McLaughlin (AF) dec. Brady Ayers (SDSU), 3-2
197: #14 Nate Rotert (SDSU) dec. #18 Parker Hines (AF), 8-7
285: Marcus Malecek (AF) dec. Alex Macki (SDSU), 2-0
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, returning NCAA qualifier Seth Gross is the highest-ranked Jackrabbit wrestler with a fifth-place ranking in the 133-pound division by FloWrestling, Trackwrestling and WIN Magazine. Gross, a national qualifier at 141 pounds last season, also is ranked sixth by Intermat.
Two-time NCAA qualifier Nate Rotert dropped in the rankings following his loss in the 197-pound finals at the Midlands Championships. A junior from Spearfish, Rotert is ranked seventh by WIN Magazine, eighth by Intermat and ninth by both FloWrestling and Trackwrestling. Rotert’s fourth-place showing in the Intermat rankings earlier this season marks the highest individual ranking for a Jackrabbit wrestler in the Division I era.
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 FloWrestling, 19th by WIN Magazine and 23rd by Trackwrestling. His older brother, Alex, also is ranked 23rd at 149 pounds by Trackwrestling.
Junior 157-pounder Colin Holler, who is currently out of the lineup due to injury, stands 14th in the latest WIN Magazine rankings and 22nd by Trackwrestling.
After being the top team to receive votes in the USA Today/National Wrestling Coaches Association preseason poll, SDSU has held the No. 20 spot in the team rankings for the last eight weeks. The Jackrabbits first cracked the rankings Nov. 8 following their season-opening dual victory over Iowa State.
SDSU also is ranked 17th in the team dual rankings by WIN Magazine and stands 18th in the team dual rankings by FloWrestling and 19th by Intermat and Trackwrestling.
HOT STREAK: With a 6-2 record to start the 2016-17 season, the Jackrabbit wrestling team has 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 19 of its last 22 duals.
The victories at the 2015 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.
LAST WEEK: South Dakota State ran its dual record to 6-2 overall and 2-0 in the Big 12 Conference with a pair of convincing home victories at Frost Arena.
South Dakota State 37, Boise State 3
South Dakota State won nine of 10 matches, including five with bonus points, to defeat Boise State, 37-3, in non-conference wrestling action Jan. 6 at Frost Arena.
Nate Rotert, the eighth-ranked wrestler at 197 pounds, set the tone with a 21-9 major decision over Harley DiLulo in the opening bout of the dual.
Starting with a forfeit win by Ben Gillette at 125 pounds, SDSU picked up bonus points in four consecutive matches. Sixth-ranked Seth Gross improved to 15-1 this season as he notched a first-period fall over Josh Newberg at 133 pounds.
Backup 141-pounder Isaac Andrade wrestled his way to a 12-4 major decision over Rami Haddadin and Alex Kocer posted his seventh win by technical fall this season, blanking Dakota Wall, 15-0, in the 149-pound bout.
SDSU also won the final four matches of the night by decision, with Logan Peterson, Luke Zilverberg, David Kocer and Martin Mueller all victorious. Zilverberg gave up a takedown late in the third period that allowed Demetrius Romero to tie the match at 3-all, but came up with a takedown midway through the first overtime period to pull out a 5-3 sudden victory.
Boise State’s lone win came in the second match of the night as Gabriel Gonzalez held off Jackrabbit heavyweight Alex Macki for an 11-9 decision.
With the win, SDSU improved to 4-0 all-time against Boise State.
GROSS IN DOMINANT FORM: Jackrabbit 133-pounder Seth Gross leads the team with a 16-1 record after recording a pair of pins in dual action last weekend against Boise State and Northern Colorado.
Gross’s lone loss of the season was a 2-0 overtime decision to third-ranked Eric Montoya of Nebraska in the semifinals of the Ken Kraft Midlands Championships on Dec. 30. Gross later defeated Iowa State’s Earl Hall by major decision to claim third place at the Midlands.
A sophomore from Apple Valley, Minnesota, Gross has had only two matches end in a decision so far this season. He has four wins by major decision, six by technical fall and five by fall.
An NCAA qualifier at 141 pounds last season, Gross has a 42-15 career record with the Jackrabbits. He began his transition to the lower weight class by earning a spot on Team USA at the UWW Junior World Championships this past summer.
THE BROTHERS KOCER: Brothers and Wagner natives Alex and David Kocer have taken over the top two spots among active Jackrabbit wrestlers in career victories.
A two-time NCAA qualifier (2014, 2016), Alex Kocer has compiled an 81-37 overall record in his four seasons in a Jackrabbit singlet. A senior, he has turned in a 15-4 overall record at 149 pounds so this season, after a 24-12 mark during the 2015-16 campaign.
David Kocer has held down the starting spot at 174 pounds each of his three seasons at SDSU and has combined to go 67-38 during his Jackrabbit career. He led the Jackrabbits in victories last season and made his first NCAA appearance, finishing with a 30-13 record.
WRESTLERS OF THE WEEK: South Dakota State’s Luke Zilverberg was honored Jan. 9 as Co-Big 12 Conference Wrestler of the Week after recording a pair of overtime victories in dual action this past weekend.
A junior 165-pounder from Belle Plaine, Minnesota, Zilverberg helped the 20th-ranked Jackrabbits to convincing home victories over Boise State (37-3) and Northern Colorado
(34-6), improving his individual season record to 13-4 overall and 6-1 in duals.
After giving up a takedown late in regulation in his match against Boise State’s Demetrius Romero that forced overtime, Zilverberg came up with a takedown of his own midway through the extra session to pull out the 5-3 win on Jan. 6.
Against Northern Colorado’s Keilan Torres – ranked 14th by FloWrestling – on Jan. 8, Zilverberg trailed 3-1 in the waning seconds of regulation, but came up with a reversal to send the match to overtime. He then came away with his second 5-3 victory of the weekend with a takedown of Torres 14 seconds into the sudden-victory period.
Zilverberg is the second Jackrabbit to be honored as Big 12 Conference Wrestler of the Week this season, joining Nov. 7 honoree David Kocer.
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.
A LOOK AHEAD: The Jackrabbits continue Big 12 action on the road, traveling Jan. 22 to top-ranked Oklahoma State. The dual meet is slated for a 2 p.m. start at Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stillwater, Oklahoma.