Wagner’s Kocer claims fifth state titleRAPID CITY — By the time the final round arrived, the biggest concern for Wagner High School fans was Alex Kocer. For the second straight year, the Red Raiders knew there was no shot at the team title on the second day of the Class B state wrestling tournament Saturday in Rapid City. Canton started gaining momentum in the wrestlebacks, and Wagner didn’t have the firepower in the championship round to catch up.
By: Luke Hagen, The Daily Republic
RAPID CITY — By the time the final round arrived, the biggest concern for Wagner High School fans was Alex Kocer.
For the second straight year, the Red Raiders knew there was no shot at the team title on the second day of the Class B state wrestling tournament Saturday in Rapid City. Canton started gaining momentum in the wrestlebacks, and Wagner didn’t have the firepower in the championship round to catch up.
So, Wagner wrestling followers’ main focus was on Kocer, who was going for his fifth straight Class B state title. Kocer capped an undefeated senior season and claimed Wagner’s only individual title, beating Newell’s Taygen Schuelke 14-5 by major decision in the 152-pound finals.
“I’ve been worried about the team all weekend, and right at the end I knew I was the last one and didn’t have anything to worry about,” said Kocer, who was named the tournament’s outstanding wrestler, an award he’s won three times in his high school career. “I just didn’t want to lose that last match.”
Kocer cruised through the field. He pinned his first two opponents and won by technical fall in the semifinals. He’s the fifth person in South Dakota wrestling history to win at least five state wrestling titles, and he’s the first to do it for Wagner High School.
“He has awesome awareness during a match and he never quits moving,” Wagner coach Chas Welch said. “That’s what makes him a good wrestler.”
Kocer ended his high school wrestling career as a six-time state place winner. He took fourth place as a seventh-grader, losing two one-point matches that year. This season was the only time he ever went unbeaten.
“I don’t think I would have dwelled on it forever,” Kocer said of what his feelings would have been had he not won the title. “But I would have been extremely disappointed, especially after working that hard throughout my high school career.”
Kocer helped Wagner win state team titles in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
“I love the time you spend with the team and looking back at the year and talking about it,” Kocer said.
For the second straight year, Wagner took fourth place as a team. Canton won the tournament with 123.5 points. The Red Raiders finished with 103.5.
Wagner’s Tyler Dion qualified for the 126-pound state championship match, where he lost to Redfield/Doland’s Ben Gillette, who finished his season 41-0. Dion picked up an impressive win in the semifinals, beating Beresford’s Josh Manning 6-5. Dion trailed Manning 3-0 entering the third period, where the Wagner junior got a takedown with about 15 seconds remaining to take the final one-point lead.
“Tyler showed his heart and conditioning,” Welch said. “Gillette is tough. We gave it everything we had. It was an excellent state tournament for Tyler.”
Wagner held the lead after the first day of the two-day state tournament. Besides Kocer and Dion, the Red Raiders had David Kocer (145) and Derek Dickerson (160) in the semifinals. Dickserson won the 152-pound state title last year, but he lost to Hot Springs’ Brady Harkless in the semifinals this year. He went on to take fifth place.
David Kocer lost to eventual champion Logan Dolen 4-3 in the semifinals. Dolen, who was a state champion last year, got a third-period takedown with about one minute left to take the lead. David Kocer finished in third place.
“We knew the semifinals was going to be a tough round,” Welch said. “Had a good day on Friday, and the boys wrestled tough. Things just didn’t go our way on the second day.”
Wagner had nine wrestlers qualified for state and six were place winners. Austin Soukup (138) and Trevor Lensing (170) each took eighth place.