EVANSTON, Ill. — Nebraska wrestler Robert Kokesh is looking to add another title to his strong sophomore season.
Kokesh picked up four convincing wins at 174 pounds during the first day of the Midlands Invitational.
Kokesh, who won at the Cliff Keen Invitational in Las Vegas a month ago, recorded two pins, a technical fall and a major decision in advancing to the semifinals.
The tournament will conclude Sunday, with semifinals and consolation rounds beginning at noon and then the championship, third- and fifth-place matches starting at 7 p.m.
Ranked eighth nationally in his weight class, Kokesh will face ninth-ranked Lee Munster of Northwestern in the semifinals. The top seed in the weight class, fifth-ranked Jordan Blanton of Illinois, suffered a 3-2 loss to Lehigh’s Nate Brown in the quarterfinals.
Kokesh improved to 20-1 on the season and has 50 wins in his Husker career. Kokesh went 30-6 during his freshman season.
But Kokesh was one of the few bright spots for the Huskers on the day.
Only two Huskers reached their third match without a loss. The other, heavyweight Collin Jensen, was competing unattached. Jensen won his first two matches before losing a 7-0 decision to Northwestern’s Michael McMullan.
At 165, Nebraska’s Austin Wilson lost his opener to second-seeded Pete Yates of Virginia Tech, but Wilson rebounded to win three wrestleback matches. Caleb Koch also won two wrestleback matches for the Huskers at 197.
Elsewhere for the Huskers, Eric Coufal won his opening match with a 6-1 decision at 125 pounds before being pinned by Virginia Tech’s Jarrod Garnett. At 133, Shawn Nagel finished 0-2.
Ridge Kiley, who is nationally ranked at 141 for the Huskers, was pinned by Maryland’s Frank Goodwin in the first round. Kiley won one wrestleback match before losing for a second time.
Brandon Wilbourn went 1-2 at 157.
Iowa, which doesn’t have its team competing at the invitational, has an individual in the semifinals as freshman Cory Clark went 3-0 at 125 pounds.
Iowa State’s Kyven Gadson reached the 197-pound quarterfinals before dropping a 4-3 decision to Matt Wilps of Pittsburgh.
Two other Cyclones, Logan Molina at 157 and Michael Moreno at 165, won their first two matches before getting knocked into the wrestlebacks.
Illinois, which entered the weekend as the highest-ranked team in the field, trails Virginia Tech in the team standings after the opening day, 60-59. Central Michigan is third with 49, while Lehigh and Northwestern are tied for fourth with 48.5.
Nebraska, which came to the tournament with five of its starters sidelined by injuries, enters the final day in 17th place with 27 points. Iowa State is in 21st with 20.5.