Small-town brothers making big impact, leading wrestling team

The town of Wagner, South Dakota is about the size of 2,000 people, home to the Red Raiders. One of the biggest wrestling towns known to South Dakota, it is the home to notable wrestlers like Travis Slaba and Brad Lhotak. 

Adding themselves to an elite list of wrestlers to come out of Wagner can be the Kocer brothers of South Dakota State University.

“It was a family in Wagner like it is now at SDSU,” Alex Kocer said on how Wagner wrestling prepared them for Division-I wrestling. “Everyone cared how you did in Wagner, and that carried over to wrestling at SDSU.”

Both of the Kocer brothers started wrestling at 5-years-old and fell in love with the sport when they realized how successful they could become. Alex was a five-time state champion while David was a two-time state champion when wrestling for Wagner.

“My older brothers, Alex and Ryan, for sure got me into wrestling,” David said. He saw how much fun they had wrestling, so he decided to join.

Alex, a junior, and David, a sophomore, are two main building blocks to the Jackrabbit wrestling program, a program that has been exceeding many of the nation’s expectations since joining the Big 12. With the team currently on a nine-dual winning streak, entering Friday’s dual with Utah Valley, the Kocer brothers have been a force helping the Jackrabbits.

Alex has a total record of 18-7 with 42 dual points. David has a team-leading record of 22-9 with 43 dual points. Both are at the top of the Jackrabbits leaders for dual points along with senior Cody Pack.

“They are not only hard working guys in the wrestling room but hard working outside of the wrestling room,” said Assistant Coach, Jon Reader, who is now in his second year of coaching at SDSU. “They are someone who you want to be around.”   

Originally, Alex never intended on wrestling at SDSU. He liked the school but felt something was missing. Alex decided to join the wrestling team during the second semester of his freshman year.

“I just missed it,” Alex said. “I was getting bored.” 

Alex helped set a path for his younger brother to come join him at SDSU and to continue helping each other to reach their main goal of becoming All-Americans.

Having a brother on the same team their whole lives has made this experience much sweeter. The Kocer brothers are thankful that both parents can make it to as many duals as they possibly can. 

Both said that the grandparents love coming as well. When they were younger, their grandfather would take them to as many tournaments as he could and taught them how to love the sport with passion.

“I have passion when I am coaching and I look forward to seeing them every day,” Reader said.

When asked if the brothers act like typical brothers when around each other, Reader said that they are quiet people but fierce competitors.

“David and Alex are extreme competitors and hate to lose, and that is something I really like about them,” Reader said. “I cannot remember a time where I had to get on them.”

As the SDSU wrestling schedule is narrowing down to the final five duals and leading up to the Big 12 Championships, the Kocer brothers hope to help lead the team to a potential conference championship and maybe more. The Kocer brothers can help SDSU continue to climb the ranks through leading by example.

“The sky is the limit for this team,” Reader said. “It [the wrestling program] has an all-time high energy right now.”