The 19th-ranked South Dakota State University wrestling team returns to Big 12 Conference action with a pair of home duals this weekend.
The Jackrabbits, 10-3 overall and 4-1 against Big 12 opponents, open the homestand by hosting 15th-ranked Oklahoma Friday night. The dual is slated for an 8 p.m. start at Frost Arena. The Sooners, who will be making their first-ever trip to Brookings, enter the weekend 8-4 overall and 4-1 in the Big 12.
Friday’s dual is expected to feature nine wrestlers ranked in the top 20 of their respective weight classes by Intermat. Head-to-head matchups between ranked wrestlers could take place at 149 and 197 pounds. The 149 clash would feature 13th-ranked Davion Jeffries of Oklahoma against the Jackrabbits’ 19th-ranked Alex Kocer. At 197, Nate Rotert of SDSU is ranked seventh, while OU’s Brad Johnson is 19th.
THE SERIES: Friday’s dual against Oklahoma will mark the third meeting in a series that began with a 31-2 Sooner victory early in the 1969-70 season. The two squads did not meet again until last season, when the Jackrabbits joined the Big 12 Conference as an affiliate member.
In their dual last season in Norman, Oklahoma, the seventh-ranked Sooners ended No. 24 SDSU’s school-record 12-match winning streak with a 19-13 victory. Oklahoma won four of the final five bouts to claim the dual.
#7 Oklahoma 19, #24 South Dakota State 13 (Feb. 14, 2016)
125: #8 Ryan Millhof (OU) dec. Ben Gillette (SDSU), 10-3
133: #4 Cody Brewer (OU) major dec. Brance Simms (SDSU), 16-5
141: Seth Gross (SDSU) dec. Trae Blackwell (OU), 8-2
149: Alex Kocer (SDSU) dec. Davion Jeffries (OU), 9-5
157: #5 Cody Pack (SDSU) major dec. Shayne Tucker (OU), 15-1
165: #13 Clark Glass (OU) dec. Luke Zilverberg (SDSU), 6-1
174: Matt Reed (OU) dec. David Kocer (SDSU), 9-4
184: Andrew Dixon (OU) dec. Brady Ayers (SDSU), 4-3
197: #15 Nate Rotert (SDSU) dec. Brad Johnson (OU), 6-2
285: #17 Ross Larson (OU) dec. Alex Macki (SDSU), 4-0
SDSU and Utah Valley State have met every season since the 2005-06 campaign, when both squads became charter members of the Western Wrestling Conference. The Wolverines hold an 8-3 series adavantage, although SDSU has won the past two matchups — 27-10 at Frost Arena during the 2014-15 season and 28-13 last season in Orem, Utah.
Before the Jackrabbits’ current series winning streak, Utah Valley had won seven duals in a row.
South Dakota State 28, Utah Valley 13 (Feb. 5, 2016)
133: Jade Rauser (UVU) def. Brance Simms (SDSU), by fall 2:16
141: Seth Gross (SDSU) major dec. Trevor Willson (UVU), 10-0
149: Alex Kocer (SDSU) def. Matthew Ontiveros (UVU), by fall 2:40
157: #6 Cody Pack (SDSU) dec. Raider Lofthouse (UVU), 11-5
165: Logan Peterson (SDSU) dec. Brayden Humpherys (UVU), 9-4
174: David Kocer (SDSU) dec. Ross Taylor (UVU), 6-4
184: Brady Ayers (SDSU) dec. Will Sumner (UVU), 9-4
197: #15 Nate Rotert (SDSU) def. Aryton Almberg (UVU), by fall 1:14
285: Dustin Dennison (UVU) dec. Alex Macki (SDSU), 5-0
125: #18 Chasen Tolbert (UVU) major dec. Ben Gillette (SDSU), 13-5
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. Individually, five different Jackrabbit wrestlers appear in at least one Division I poll.
Returning NCAA qualifier Seth Gross holds the highest ranking ever by a Jackrabbit wrestler in the Division I era with a second-place ranking in the 133-pound division by Intermat and Trackwrestling following his victory over then-No. 2 Kaid Brock of Oklahoma State on Jan. 22. Gross, a national qualifier at 141 pounds last season, also is ranked fifth by WIN Magazine and FloWrestling.
Two-time NCAA qualifier Nate Rotert moved back up in the rankings following his Jan. 22 win over fourth-ranked Preston Weigel of Oklahoma State on Jan. 22. A junior from Spearfish, Rotert is ranked sixth by WIN Magazine and seventh by Intermat, FloWrestling and Trackwrestling. Earlier this season, Rotert rose to as high as fourth in the Intermat rankings, which marked the highest individual ranking by a Jackrabbit before Gross’ ascension two weeks ago.
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 upped his standing after upsetting fifth-ranked Kyle Crutchmer of Oklahoma State on Jan. 22 to 13th in the FloWrestling rankings, as well as 15th by Intermat, WIN Magazine and Trackwrestling. His older brother, Alex, appears in the 149-pound polls this week with rankings of 18th by FloWrestling, Trackwrestling and WIN Magazine, as well as 19th by Intermat.
Rounding out the list of ranked Jackrabbit wrestlers is junior 165-pounder Luke Zilverberg. The Belle Plaine, Minnesota, native stands 14th in the FloWrestling rankings and 19th by WIN Magazine.
After being the top team to receive votes in the USA Today/National Wrestling Coaches Association preseason poll, SDSU held the No. 20 spot in the team rankings for eight weeks until moving up one spot to 19th on Jan. 17, a spot the Jackrabbits hold again this week. The Jackrabbits first cracked the rankings Nov. 8 following their season-opening dual victory over Iowa State.
SDSU also is ranked 14th in the team dual rankings by WIN Magazine and stands 16th by Trackwrestling 17th by Intermat and 19th by FloWrestling.
HOT STREAK: With a 10-3 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 23 of its last 27 duals, with all four losses against nationally ranked opponents.
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.
SDSU also is 10-3 in duals against Big 12 Conference opponents since joining the league as an affiliate member at the start of the 2015-16 season. The Jackrabbits’ losses have been to Oklahoma State (twice) and Oklahoma.
LAST WEEK: The South Dakota State University wrestling team returned to its winning ways Jan. 28 by defeating a pair of Southern Conference opponents at a triangular in Edwardsville, Illinois. The 19th-ranked Jackrabbits recorded a 34-9 victory over host SIUE in their first dual, followed by a 33-10 win against Gardner-Webb later in the day.
Against SIUE, the Jackrabbits won eight consecutive matches, six of which resulted in bonus points. Second-ranked 133-pounder Seth Gross started the string with a 19-5 major decision over John Muldoon. Alex Kocer, ranked 20th at 149 pounds, and 165-pounder Luke Zilverberg also won by major decision, while backup 184-pounder Zac Carlson and seventh-ranked Nate Rotert at 197 pounds added back-to-back technical falls.
Logan Peterson completed the list of bonus-point victories for the Jackrabbits with a first-period pin of Karsten Van Velsor in the 157-pound bout.
Winning by decision for SDSU were Henry Pohlmeyer, who returned to the lineup at 141 pounds for the first time in a month, and 15th-ranked David Kocer at 174 pounds.
SDSU racked up four pins in its 33-10 win over Gardner-Webb, starting with a first-period fall by Gross. Isaac Andrade followed with a second-period pin at 141 pounds, with Zilverberg and Rotert also taking care of their opponents in short order.
The Jackrabbits’ three other victories in the second dual of the day were all by decision as Ben Gillette (125 pounds) and the Kocer brothers came away with wins.
GROSS IN DOMINANT FORM: Jackrabbit 133-pounder Seth Gross leads the team with a 21-1 record after posting two convincing wins last weekend in a triangular hosted by Southern Illinois-Edwardsville.
Gross’s lone loss of the season was a 2-0 overtime decision to then-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 as part of his current nine-match winning streak.
A sophomore from Apple Valley, Minnesota, Gross has had only three matches end in a decision so far this season. He has five wins by major decision, six by technical fall and eight by fall.
An NCAA qualifier at 141 pounds last season, Gross has a 47-15 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 85-38 overall record in his four seasons in a Jackrabbit singlet, moving into a four-way tie for 19th place on the SDSU career victories list with Brian Loeffler (1990-93), Kirk Simet (1976-80) and Howard Fullhart (1995-98). A senior, Kocer has turned in a 19-5 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 72-38 during his Jackrabbit career. He led the Jackrabbits in victories last season and made his first NCAA appearance, finishing with a 30-13 record.
A LOOK AHEAD: The Jackrabbits will head east for two duals. SDSU is slated to take on Big 12 opponent West Virginia Feb. 9 in Morgantown, followed by a Feb. 12 dual at top-10 Virginia Tech.