After recording its most successful dual season at the Division I level, the South Dakota State University wrestling team shifts its focus to postseason competition by preparing for this weekend’s Big 12 Wrestling Championship.
The two-day tournament kicks off at 11 a.m. Saturday at BOK Center in downtown Tulsa, Oklahoma. The opening session will consist of preliminary matches, quarterfinals and the first round of consolation matches. Action continues at 5 p.m. Saturday with semifinals and second-round consolation matches.
The entire tournament will be available for viewing through FloWrestling.org (subscription required), with the championship session also airing on FOX Sports regional networks. Tickets are on sale at BOKCenter.com or through Ticketmaster.
The Big 12 Wrestling Championship serves as the qualifying tournament for the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships, which are set for March 15-17 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Big 12 has been allocated 45 automatic qualifying spots, including three at all 10 weight classes. The full listing of Big 12 allocations is as follows with SDSU wrestler and pre-seed in brackets. Seedings will be finalized later in the week.
125: 7 Connor Brown [5th]
133: 5 Seth Gross [1st]
141: 3 Henry Pohlmeyer [5th]
149: 5 Colten Carlson [12th]
157: 3 Luke Zilverberg [3rd]
165: 6 Logan Peterson [11th]
174: 5 David Kocer [3rd]
184: 4 Martin Mueller [2nd]
197: 4 Nate Rotert [2nd]
285: 3 Alex Macki [6th]
SDSU finished the 2017-18 dual season with a 14-2 overall record, including an 8-0 mark against Big 12 opponents. The 12th-ranked Jackrabbits finished the dual season on a school-record 14-match winning streak.
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 a 22-3 record in duals against Big 12 foes, including a 15-1 mark over the last two seasons, with the only loss coming at Oklahoma State on Jan. 22, 2017.
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 12th — their highest-ever ranking at the D-I level. SDSU rose three spots following wins over Wyoming (Jan. 18) and Northern Iowa (Jan. 21) after holding the 15th spot for four consecutive weeks.
Defending national champion Penn State is the top-ranked team in the poll, followed by Ohio State. Missouri is third, with Michigan fourth and Oklahoma State fifth.
Besides Oklahoma State and the Jackrabbits, the Big 12 is represented in the poll by Wyoming (14th) and newcomer Northern Iowa (15th).
Other current top-25 opponents on the Jackrabbits’ dual schedule this season include Arizona State (ninth), Minnesota (18th) and Central Michigan (20th).
The Jackrabbits also are ranked 15th across the board in team tournament rankings. SDSU ended the dual season 11th in dual rankings by WIN Magazine, as well as 12th by Intermat and 13th by FloWrestling.
Individually, a season-high seven Jackrabbits, including top-ranked Seth Gross at 133 pounds, were included in the final regular season installment of the NCAA coaches’ panel rankings, which were released Feb. 22.
A junior from Apple Valley, Minnesota, Gross enters the week with a 21-1 record during the 2017-18 season, with his only loss coming while wrestling up a weight class against top-ranked 141-pounder Bryce Meredith of Wyoming. Gross also holds the top spot in 133-pound 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 is ranked 10th at 174 pounds, Spearfish product Nate Rotert is 11th at 197 pounds and 157-pounder Luke Zilverberg stands 12th.
A senior and a two-time NCAA qualifer, Kocer also is ranked 10th by FloWrestling and 11th by WIN Magazine, Intermat and TrackWrestling.
Rotert, a three-time NCAA qualifier from Spearfish, is ranked 10th by both Intermat and TrackWrestling, while maintaining an 11th-place showing with FloWrestling and WIN Magazine.
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 and TrackWrestling rankings. He also is rated 12th by Intermat and 14th by FloWrestling.
Also included in the SDSU contingent for the NCAA panel rankings are freshman Connor Brown and sophomore Martin Mueller. Brown is ranked 21st in the 125-pound weight class, while Mueller is 20th at 184 pounds.
Brown cracked the national rankings for the first time in his career after consecutive dual wins against Wyoming and Northern Iowa in January. A true freshman from Oak Grove, Missouri, Brown has been tabbed 19th by Intermat, 20th by WIN Magazine, 19th by Intermat and 25th by TrackWrestling.
Mueller appears in two national rankings, checking in at No. 20 in the Intermat ratings and 24th by TrackWrestling.
Cracking the coaches’ rankings for the first time was sophomore Henry Pohlmeyer, who appeared at No. 31 in the 141-pound division. A winner in eight of his last nine matches, Pohlmeyer has upped his season record to 19-7 overall. He is not ranked in any of the other national polls.
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: Led by technical fall victories from two-time NCAA qualifiers David Kocer and Seth Gross, the South Dakota State wrestling team closed out the dual season with a 22-12 victory over rival North Dakota State before 2,324 fans Feb. 16 at Frost Arena.
In retaining the Border Bell traveling trophy, the 12th-ranked Jackrabbits ran their dual winning streak to 14 matches in improving to 14-2 overall. SDSU also finished undefeated in Big 12 Conference duals for the first time with an 8-0 record. NDSU dropped to 7-10 overall in duals and 1-7 in the Big 12.
Trailing 6-0 through two matches, Kocer put the Jackrabbits on the board with a 16-1 technical fall over Dylan Urbach in the 174-pound match. Ranked 10th and a Wagner native, Kocer scored a two-point near-fall in the first period and added four more back points after his second takedown of the match in the second period for a 10-0 lead.
Martin Mueller followed with an 11-5 decision over Charley Popp to give SDSU the lead for good. Nate Rotert, ranked 11th at 197 pounds, scored on a takedown in the closing seconds to edge Cordell Eaton, 3-1, to up the Jackrabbit lead to 11-6 at the halfway mark of the dual.
After NDSU drew to within 11-9 on a win at heavyweight by Dan Stibral, the Jackrabbits put together another three-match winning streak in the lower weights to seal the dual.
Connor Brown came through with an 11-5 decision over Paul Bianchi at 125 pounds, while Gross lived up to his top billing at 133 pounds with a 16-0 technical fall over Cam Sykora. Gross led 6-0 after one period with a takedown and four-point near-fall, then notched another takedown and pair of four-point near-falls to win in four minutes.
Henry Pohlmeyer secured the victory with a dominant 5-0 blanking of McGwire Midkiff in the 141-pound match, racking up more than four and a half minutes of riding time.
NDSU got out to its early lead by winning the lone match between ranked wrestlers. Eighth-ranked Clayton Ream outlasted 13th-ranked Luke Zilverberg, 7-5, with a takedown in the second sudden-victory overtime period. Andrew Fogarty followed with a 6-3 decision over Logan Peterson at 165 pounds, but the Bison could not come up with any bonus-point victories on the night.
A LOOK AHEAD: At-large qualifiers will be announced March 6 to complete the 330-wrestler field for the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships March 15-17 at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio.