Jackrabbits head for Big 12 Tournament

By TRENTON ABREGO Sports Reporter

The South Dakota State wrestling team will head to Tulsa, Oklahoma this weekend to participate in the Big 12 Conference tournament on March 4 and 5.

As a conference, the Big 12 has been allocated 38 qualifying spots over the ten weight classes, with the 165 and 197 classes receiving five spots each.

Seth Gross and David Kocer are the lone two Jackrabbits to earn the top seed in their respective brackets.

Gross, who is the No. 2 wrestler in the country in the 133-pound weight class, according to InterMat, will be on a crash course. It will most likely lead to a rematch with Kaid Brock, the No. 3 wrestler in the nation.

The last time the two faced off, Gross edged him 6-4. Gross has had an outstanding season so far, and was undefeated in duals, his only loss coming from the Midlands Championships. 

“He has just got to keep doing what he’s been doing,” said head coach Chris Bono.

Kocer has also performed well this year for the Jacks, having only lost once in Big 12 duals against Kimball Bastian from Utah Valley in overtime 3-1. On the year, Kocer’s record is 20-7.

Nate Rotert and Alex Kocer earned second seeds in the tournament. Rotert has had a successful season in the Big 12, and his only loss came when he injury-defaulted against West Virginia. Alex Kocer has also only lost once in the Big 12, when he was beaten 23-8 by the No. 2 wrestler in the 149-weight class, Anthony Collica.

Martin Mueller received the third seed. The 184-weight class is only allotted two qualifiers to the NCAAs so he will need an upset if the top two wrestlers in that bracket continue. Mueller has fallen to both Nolan Boyd and Dylan Gabel.

The 165-weight class features four top-20 wrestlers, according to InterMat rankings. However, Luke Zilverberg has only faced three of the four and defeated Branson Ashworth from Wyoming.

Other placings for the Jackrabbits are Ben Gillette, Logan Peterson and Alex Macki at the seven seeds. Henry Pohlmeyer received a ten seed.

However, Bono isn’t worried about the seedings.

“A lot of guys have good records and are capable of winning the tournament,” Bono said.

The Jackrabbits fell to Purdue in the National Dual Series, but bounced back that same weekend and beat the North Dakota State Bison.

That loss might have provided some help for the team, according to Bono.

“We probably needed to take that loss to refocus,” Bono said.

While the Jacks head to Big 12, they’ll aim to keep their vision on the National Championships.

The National Championships will take place two weeks after the Big 12 conference tournament is finished.

“This is our goal, but our ultimate goal is the NCAA tournament, so we need to have a fine balance making sure we are ready for the conference tournament, but also making sure we are ready for the NCAA tournament,” Bono said.