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Luke Hagen/Republic Wagner's Robert Kokesh pins his opponent during last season's Class B duals in Wagner. Kokesh signed his letter of intent to wrestle collegiately with Nebraska on Friday.

Kokesh headed to Nebraska

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sports Mitchell,South Dakota 57301
The Daily Republic
Kokesh headed to Nebraska
Mitchell South Dakota 120 South Lawler 57301

Wagner's two-time defending state wrestling champion Robert Kokesh signed with the University of Nebraska, it was announced by the university Friday.


Kokesh won the 160-pound Class B state championship as a junior and the 145-pound state championship as a sophomore, losing only once in that time span.

The signing came just days after Wagner started wrestling practice as the team prepares for a run at a Class B team title three-peat.

"I really connected with (coach Mark Manning)," Kokesh said of choosing Nebraksa. "He comes from a community like I do. He's from Vermillion and a farming community, and I connected with him right away."

Kokesh's dominance hasn't just dated back two years, though. He has a 155-23 record in four years on the varsity mat, and he's started since his eighth-grade year.

South Dakota State, Northern Iowa and Minnesota were all among the top universities interested in Kokesh.

But, ultimately, he decided he wanted to be a Husker.

"Robert really fits the mold of our team," Manning said Monday night in a phone interview with The Daily Republic. "We've watched him a number of times and he tries to compete at the highest level. We really like his work ethic and we think he'll be very competitive at the college level."

In his final high school season, Kokesh said he'll wrestle multiple weights. He said he'll bounce from 160 to 171 and maybe 189, but he'll most likely finish the season where he did last year at 160.

After giving up only two takedowns last season, Kokesh said this year his goal is to give up none. Plus, he wants to set the state's all-time pinning record.

"He needs to really challenge himself every day to get better," Manning said. "Robert understands this and we've talked about it -- he needs to get better every day. He hasn't reached his potential and there's a lot of room for improvement, not only on his feet, but on top and on bottom.

"He needs to keep improving himself to be a complete wrestler."

Kokesh said Manning already told him he will redshirt in his freshman season with the Huskers, but after his first season, his goals are unlike most others'.

"My freshman year I want to make it on varsity, my sophomore year I want to be an All-American and junior and senior years I want to win the national tournament," Kokesh said.

In college, Kokesh expects to wrestle at 165, 175 and possibly 184 in his later years.

With Kokesh might come another standout South Dakota wrestler to the University of Nebraska.

Webster native and junior Logan Storley and Kokesh became friends during the summer of their sophomore years, and according to Kokesh, Storley -- already a four-time state champion -- is highly considering also becoming a Husker.

"It's pretty sure right now, he went to his unofficial visit at Nebraska and he really liked it, too," Kokesh said. "I think we're both going to be going to Nebraska -- pretty sure.

"We've been friends for a few years now, and ever since our sophomore year when we went to Virginia Beach we really hit it off. It'd be awesome to go to the same school as him and be partners with him. With that caliber, you can make a person a lot better."

Manning couldn't comment directly on Storley due to NCAA rules, but he did say he has been persuing some of Kokesh's friends.

"We're really happy to have Robert, and I know there are some kids in the state of South Dakota that have friendships and relationships with Robert that we have our eye on," Manning said. "We're excited about some of those guys."