On the brink of extinction just six years ago, South Dakota State wrestling has made one of the more remarkable turn- around for any sport at any level. Today, SDSU stands 12th in the nation, and winners of a school-record 13th consecutive duels. But for head coach Chris Bono, the focus isn't on what's been accomplished, but what's ahead.
"We don't think about the past - we are thinking about NDSU on Friday night - we are not thinking about the Big12s or the NCAA - we're thinking about NDSU. Then when it's all over, we'll celebrate at our banquet the accomplishments we've had," SDSU head wrestling coach Chris Bono said.
The Jackrabbits accomplishments start with a what could be described as an athletic department moto. Do your job, improve each day, and the team will succeed.
"I think every individual has really improved, and I think when you have 10 individuals improve, the team is going to improve," Bono said.
"If you do your 10 percent, it will take care of itself. I mean, if I do my 10 percent, and everyone else does their 10 percent - that's what it is. It makes it simple - you can just focus on the one task at hand, and it works out really well," SDSU Senior Wrestler David Kocer said.
It's also doesn't hurt that SDSU has four nationally ranked individuals, including last years national runner-up and current #1 Seth Gross.
"It's his mentality, it's his approach to practice, it's his approach to wanting to be a national champion, and he knows what it takes to be a national champion," Bono said.
Wagner, native David Kocer has also impressed. The 174-ponder recently picked up his 100th career-win for the jacks.
"Honestly, it's something that I never really thought about - I haven't out a whole lot of thought into it. It's just one match at the time, having fun, going out there and competing, wrestling with my teammates and having fun," Kocer said.
Regardless of how much success the Jacks have, their national perception may not change. Thankfully for the team, they only care about one thing, and that's winning.
"There is a lack of respect but we don't care. We are going into Norman, OK and winning matches, we are going out to Pittsburgh and West Virginia and we have been all over the country and will wrestle anyone that wants to wrestle us - we don't care about respect. We want to make sure that we go down to the NCAA tournament in Cleveland, Ohio in the second weekend of March and bring home national champions and All-Americans and see how high we can place - that is what we care about," bono said.
In Brookings, Elliot Nathan, KSFY Sports