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Kokesh finally gets best of Storley to take third at national tourney

(Photo courtesy of Keith Southworth/Nebraska Media Relations) University of Nebraska wrestler and Wagner native Robert Kokesh records the match-winning takedown against Minnesota's Logan Storley during the 174-pound third-place match at the NCAA Division I national wrestling tournament Saturday in Des Moines, Iowa.

WAGNER -- Robert Kokesh can recite all of his matches against Logan Storley, dating all the way back to their first meeting 13 years ago in elementary school.

On Saturday in Des Moines, Iowa, at the final day of the NCAA Division I national wrestling tournament, the South Dakota natives met for their fifth time ever. Kokesh -- a Nebraska 174-pounder -- finally got the best of Storley, of the University of Minnesota, with a 3-1 overtime win.

Kokesh, a Wagner native, finished third at the three-day event, capping off a tournament he claimed All-American honors for the first time as a college wrestler. He said it was the greatest accomplishment of his career.

"That takedown in overtime was great," said Kokesh, who finished his season 38-4, giving him the second-most wins by a Nebraska sophomore in school history. "I ended up finishing on it and it feels great to finally get that win over him once. But we're still great friends and great competitors. It was a fun match and I'm really glad I got to take part in it."

Kokesh and Storley have now met five times on the wrestling mat with Storley winning four. Earlier this year, Storley defeated Kokesh 3-1 in overtime in a Big Ten Conference dual in Lincoln, Neb., which was their first meeting in college. Before that, they met once in high school and twice in elementary school while competing in Amateur Athletic Union wrestling.

During a high school tournament in Gregory, Storley won 3-2 when he was a junior at Webster and Kokesh was a senior for the Red Raiders. They also met in two out of three years at the state AAU tournament, with Storley winning 5-2 and 4-2.

On Saturday, Kokesh got an escape in the second period and Storley responded with one in the third period, sending the match to a sudden-victory period. Kokesh recorded the match-winning takedown with about 16 seconds left on the clock.

The win was Kokesh's second of the day in which he defeated an opponent he never had previously beaten. In his first wrestleback match of the tournament, Kokesh beat Iowa's Mike Evans 3-2. Kokesh lost to Evans three times previously, once this year and twice last year.

"I've really improved from the beginning of the year to the end of the year," Kokesh said. "I think I've peaked at the right time. Hopefully, I can take the end of this season and start where I left off going into next season and continue to progress my wrestling."

Kokesh earned All-American status Friday morning when he won his quarterfinal match. To become an All-American, a wrestler needs to finish in the top eight of his weight class. After winning in the quarterfinals, Kokesh lost to eventual-champion Chris Perry, of Oklahoma State, 4-2 in overtime.

"There were few things that didn't go well for me in that match," said Kokesh, who was one victory shy of being an All-American as a redshirt freshman last year. "In the long run, that made me a better wrestler. Sometimes you have to take those lessons throughout the match and work on them.

"I've got two years left of my college career, and I want to finish out on top for the next two years. I ended up a little short, but that's what happens when you wrestle the best guys in the nation. It's tough."

Kokesh was a three-time individual state champion for Wagner and said he plans to wrestle at 174 pounds again next year.

Storley's fourth-place finish was two spots higher than what he ended up as a true freshman last year, now making him a two-time All-American. Friday night in the semifinals, Storley lost to eventual runner-up Matt Brown, of Penn State, 3-2.

Storley, who finished his season 28-5, defeated Ohio State's Nick Heflin 3-2 in his first wrestleback match Saturday, and then lost to Kokesh in his final match of his sophomore season. Storley is one of two wrestlers in South Dakota history to have won six individual state high school championships.