The South Dakota State University wrestling team will put its nine-dual winning streak on the line Sunday afternoon when it travels to the University of Oklahoma for a Big 12 Conference matchup.
Action is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. at McCasland Field House in Norman, Oklahoma. The dual is slated to be televised on FOX Sports Oklahoma and FOX College Sports Central (check cable/satellite provider for availability).
The Jackrabbits enter the week with their highest-ever ranking in a national poll at the Division I level at No. 12 in the USA Today/National Wrestling Coaches Association poll. Since suffering a 25-13 defeat at Arizona State on Nov. 26, SDSU has reeled off nine consecutive dual wins for a 9-2 overall record and 4-0 mark against Big 12 opponents.
Oklahoma, meanwhile, is receiving votes in this week’s USA Today/NWCA poll. The Sooners have been in and out of the national rankings this season and will bring a 6-6 overall record and 2-2 mark in Big 12 duals into a Friday matchup against Iowa State before hosting the Jackrabbits.
THE SERIES: Sunday’s dual against Oklahoma will mark the fourth 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 the 2015-16 season, when the Jackrabbits joined the Big 12 Conference as an affiliate member. Oklahoma leads the all-time series, 2-1, including a 19-13 victory in Norman on Feb. 14, 2016. That victory ended SDSU’s school-record 12-match winning streak.
SDSU picked up its first win in the series in dramatic fashion on Feb. 3, 2017, in Brookings. Seth Gross came up with a pin in the final bout of the night to lift the 19th-ranked Jackrabbits to a 20-19 win on criteria before a crowd of 1,757 fans at Frost Arena.
Trailing 19-13 heading into the 133-pound match, the second-ranked Gross delivered. The Apple Valley, Minnesota, native recorded two takedowns of Trae Blackwell in the first two minutes of the match before turning his opponent on his back for a pin in 2 minutes and 24 seconds.
Gross’ pin canceled out a pin by Oklahoma heavyweight Ross Larson two matches earlier and forced the dual to be decided on criteria based on team points. The Jackrabbits, in large part to seventh-ranked Nate Rotert’s 14-5 major decision over 19th-ranked Brad Johnson in the 197-pound match, held a 50-47 edge in the team point category to earn the decisive team point.
Alex Kocer, ranked 19th at 149 pounds, claimed the first of two matches between ranked opponents, as he knocked off 13th-ranked Davion Jeffries, 11-9. Kocer turned a reversal into a four-point near-fall for the decisive margin in a wild second period.
#19 South Dakota State 20, #15 Oklahoma 19 (Feb. 3, 2017)
141: Mike Longo (OU) major dec. Henry Pohlmeyer (SDSU), 9-1
149: #19 Alex Kocer (SDSU) dec. #13 Davion Jeffries (OU), 11-9
157: #11 Clark Glass (OU) dec. Logan Peterson (SDSU), 5-3
165: #14 Yoanse Mejias (OU) dec. Luke Zilverberg (SDSU), 5-3
174: #15 David Kocer (SDSU) dec. Matt Reed (OU), 6-1
184: Martin Mueller (SDSU) dec. Andrew Dixon (OU), 7-5
197: #7 Nate Rotert (SDSU) major dec. #19 Brad Johnson (OU), 14-5
285: #20 Ross Larson (OU) def. Alex Macki (SDSU) by fall 0:48
125: Christian Moody (OU) dec. Ben Gillette (SDSU), 8-5
133: #2 Seth Gross (SDSU) def. Trae Blackwell (OU) by fall 2:24
Note: SDSU awarded final team point on criteria (team points, 50-47)
BIG 12 SUCCESS: Now in its third season as an affiliate member of the Big 12 Conference for wrestling, South Dakota State has established itself as one of the top teams in the league.
Since joining the league at the start of the 2015-16 season, the Jackrabbits have combined to post an 18-3 record in duals against Big 12 foes, including an 8-1 mark during the 2016-17 campaign. SDSU also turned in a fourth-place finish at the 2016 Big 12 Wrestling Championship, followed by a third-place effort last season.
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.
The Jackrabbits opened the 2017-18 season with a No. 16 ranking in the first USA Today/NWCA Division I Coaches Poll, and have since moved up four spots to a tie for 12th – their highest-ever ranking at the D-I level. SDSU rose three spots this week after holding the 15th spot for the past four weeks.
Defending national champion Penn State is the top-ranked team in the poll, followed by Ohio State. Missouri is third, with Iowa fourth and Oklahoma State fifth.
Besides Oklahoma State and the Jackrabbits, the Big 12 is represented in the poll by newcomer Northern Iowa (tied for 12th) and Wyoming (22nd). Oklahoma and Utah Valley are receiving votes.
Other current top-25 opponents on the Jackrabbits’ dual schedule this season include Arizona State (eighth), Minnesota (14th) and Central Michigan (17th).
The Jackrabbits also are ranked 13th by TrackWrestling and 15th by FloWrestling. SDSU stands 11th in tournament rankings conducted by both Intermat and WIN Magazine, as well as 11th in the dual rankings from WIN and 13th by Intermat.
Individually, six Jackrabbits, including top-ranked Seth Gross at 133 pounds, appear in the first installment of the NCAA coaches’ panel rankings, which were released Jan. 18.
A junior from Apple Valley, Minnesota, Gross enters the week with a 16-1 record during the 2017-18 season, with his only loss coming against top-ranked 141-pounder Bryce Meredith of Wyoming. Gross also holds the top spot in rankings conducted by four major rating services: FloWrestling, Intermat, TrackWrestling and WIN Magazine.
Three other returning national qualifiers for the Jackrabbits also appear in the NCAA panel rankings in their respective weight classes. Wagner native David Kocer and Spearfish product Nate Rotert are each ranked ninth at 174 and 197 pounds, respectively, while 157-pounder Luke Zilverberg is tied for 11th.
A senior and two-time NCAA qualifier, Kocer is ranked ninth this week by FloWrestling and Intermat and TrackWrestling. The Wagner native also stands 11th in the WIN Magazine rankings.
Rotert, a three-time NCAA qualifier from Spearfish, is ranked seventh by WIN Magazine, ninth by Intermat and 11th by both FloWrestling and TrackWrestling.
Zilverberg has dropped down to the 157-pound weight class for his senior season. An NCAA qualifier at 165 pounds during the 2016-17 season, the Belle Plaine, Minnesota, native checks in at No. 10 in this week’s WIN Magazine rankings. He also is rated 11th by TrackWrestling, 12th by Intermat and 16th by FloWrestling.
Rounding out the SDSU contingent in the NCAA panel rankings are freshman Connor Brown and sophomore Martin Mueller. Brown was ranked 29th in the 125-pound weight class, while Mueller is 23rd at 184 pounds.
Brown cracked the national rankings for the first time in his career after running his record to 16-9 with a pair of wins last week. A true freshman from Oak Grove, Missouri, Brown has been tabbed 18th by WIN Magazine, 19th by Intermat and 20th by FloWrestling.
The final NCAA panel rankings will be one of the tools used as part of the selection process to determine the qualifiers for the 2018 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships, which will be held March 15-17 at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio.
LAST TIME OUT: Connor Brown and Seth Gross opened the dual with consecutive pins, leading 15th-ranked South Dakota State to a 22-16 victory over 11th-ranked Northern Iowa in dual action Jan. 21 at Frost Arena.
The Jackrabbits, who won their ninth dual in a row, improved to 9-2 overall and 4-0 against Big 12 Conference opponents. UNI dropped to 5-3 overall and 2-1 against league foes. SDSU ended a 21-dual losing streak to the Panthers, which began in the 1973-74 season.
A freshman from Oak Grove, Missouri, Brown trailed 6-0 late in the first period against 18th-ranked Jay Schwarm on a takedown and four-point near-fall. However, Brown was able to wriggle out of a potential pinning situation and knotted the match at 8 late in the period with a pair of reversals and four-point near-fall of his own.
Brown started the second period on the bottom, but quickly scored his third – and final – reversal of the match, putting Schwarm on his back for a pin 23 seconds into the period.
Gross, the top-ranked wrestler at 133 pounds, wasted little time to put the Jackrabbits up 12-0 in his match against Jack Wagner. Gross recorded a takedown in the opening minute, then came up with another takedown and tilt, putting Wagner’s shoulders to the mat at 1:32.
UNI trimmed the deficit to 12-7 with a decision from ninth-ranked Josh Alber at 141 pounds and seventh-ranked Max Thomsen scored a 15-1 major decision at 149 pounds.
SDSU’s Luke Zilverberg countered with a 15-1 major decision of his own at 157 pounds and Logan Peterson pushed the Jackrabbit lead back to 12 points at 19-7 with a 4-2 decision over Isaiah Patton at 165 pounds. Peterson took advantage of three penalty points for stalling against Patton to pull out the victory.
The two squads split their matches featuring ranked wrestlers on both sides. UNI’s Taylor Lujan, ranked seventh at 174 pounds, upended the Jackrabbits’ ninth-ranked David Kocer, 3-1, while SDSU’s 11th-ranked Nate Rotert scored a 5-1 decision over 15th-ranked Jacob Holschlag. Rotert’s victory sealed the dual win for SDSU and kept the senior 197-pounder undefeated in duals this season at 10-0.
UNI also received wins by decision from Drew Foster, who is ranked 10th at 184 pounds, and heavyweight Carter Isley.
GROSS ON HODGE WATCH LIST: At the halfway mark of the 2017-18 wrestling season, South Dakota State’s Seth Gross is firmly in the discussion for the Hodge Trophy, which is awarded annually to the most outstanding collegiate wrestler.
A junior from Apple Valley, Minnesota, Gross has compiled a 16-1 record so far this season. Of his 16 victories, nine have been by fall and five have been by technical fall.
At the Ken Kraft Midlands Championships Dec. 29-30 in Hoffman Estates, Illinois, the top-ranked Gross cruised to the 133-pound title by recording four technical falls and two pins in his six matches, earning the two-day tournament’s Dan Gable Outstanding Wrestler award.
Hodge Trophy candidates are judged on the following criteria: record, number of pins, dominance, past credentials, quality of competition, sportsmanship/citizenship and heart.
Gross enters Sunday’s dual with a 76-17 overall record in his three seasons at SDSU, including a 36-7 mark in duals. A two-time NCAA qualifier, Gross compiled a 34-2 record as a sophomore en route to a national runner-up at the 2017 NCAA Championships.
DUAL STREAK ENDS: Seth Gross had his streak of 28 consecutive victories in dual competition end in a Jan. 18 dual against Wyoming. Gross moved up a weight class to take on top-ranked 141-pounder Bryce Meredith in a rare 1-versus-1 matchup, dropping a 4-2 decision.
After winning his final five dual bouts at 141 pounds during the 2015-16 season, Gross posted a perfect 17-0 record in duals last season while wrestling at 133 pounds. He stayed unbeaten at 133 pounds this season and extended his winning streak to 28 with pins over Durbin Lloren (Utah Valley) and Isaac Jimenez (Air Force) last weekend.
Of his 28 consecutive dual wins, 14 were by fall, six by major decision, and four each by decision and technical fall to total 140 team dual points.
Prior to his Jan. 18 defeat, Gross’ last dual loss was a 6-4 setback to Meredith on Jan. 29, 2016.
A LOOK AHEAD: The Jackrabbits will be back home briefly, hosting Iowa State in a Big 12 Conference dual next Sunday (Feb. 4). Start time is set for 1 p.m. at Frost Arena, with video streaming available through FloWrestling.org (subscription required).
From there, SDSU will head east for duals Feb. 9 at Pittsburgh and Feb. 11 at Big 12 rival West Virginia.