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Kokesh, Kocer qualify for NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships

Nebraska’s Robert Kokesh, a Wagner native, top, works to turn Michigan’s Collin Zeerip during their 174-pound quarterfinals match at Big Ten Champion-ships Saturday in Madison, Wis. (Photo by Mike Smith/MatShots)

It was a weekend to remember for the Wagner wrestling community.

Two former Red Raiders, Robert Kokesh and Alex Kocer, were crowned conference champions and earned spots at the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships.

Kokesh, a junior for University of Nebraska-Lincoln and three-time Class B state wrestling champion, claimed the 174-pound title at the Big Ten Championships Sunday in Madison, Wis. Kokesh was the top seed heading into the tournament and defeated the University of Iowa’s Mike Evans, the No. 3 seed, by a 6-4 decision in the championship, giving Kokesh his 100th career victory.

Kokesh, who was one of two Nebraska wrestlers to win the tournament, became Nebraska’s 22nd member of the 100-win club and improved to 32-1 this season.

En route to the conference finals, Kokesh had to beat the University of Minnesota’s Logan Storley, a Webster High School graduate, in the semifinal round. The Husker defeated his South Dakota rival in a 3-2 decision to advance. Storley finished fourth after falling to Pennsylvania State University’s Matt Brown 2-1.

Kokesh, an All-American in 2013, and Nebraska’s other champion James Green (157) became the first two Big Ten champions for Nebraska since the school joined the conference in 2011. The Huskers finished fifth in the team race with 79 points. Penn State won the title with 140.5 points, followed by Iowa (134), Minnesota (114.5) and Ohio State University (86.5).

Kocer one of two Jacks to qualify

Kocer, a redshirt freshman for South Dakota State University, won the 149-pound weight class at the NCAA West Region/Western Wrestling Conference Championship Saturday in Orem, Utah.

Kocer (29-11) and teammate Cody Pack, who is ranked No. 16 in the nation at 157 pounds, became the second and third Jackrabbits to win conference titles in the Division I era. Both wrestlers automatically qualified for the NCAA Championships and represents the first time in school history that SDSU has sent multiple Division I qualifiers to the championships.

Kocer went 2-0 over the weekend, beginning with a 5-1 decision over the University of Wyoming’s Brandon Richardson in the semifinals, following an opening-round bye. In the finals, he beat Air Force’s Natrelle Demison 5-2 to claim the title.

The NCAA will release its 40 at-large bids Wednesday and SDSU’s John Nething II and Joe Brewster are potential at-large candidates.

The Jackrabbits finished fifth with 34.5 points, while North Dakota State University won the team title with 74 points. Wyoming was second with 66 points.

Mitchell native Brent Havlik, a redshirt freshman for Wyoming, went 0-2 at 174 pounds. Havlik finished the season 16-16 for the Cowboys.

Kokesh and Kocer conclude their season in two weeks at the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships March 20-22 in Oklahoma City, Okla.