Tuesday, December 25, 2012
- by B.B. Branton
Chris Bono has a new lease on his wrestling life and so do the Jackrabbits of South Dakota State.
The former University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling coach was out of college coaching for two years (working in private business) when the South Dakota State job opened up this past spring and quicker than taking an opponent off his feet and to his back, Bono had pinned down the head coaching job and breathing new life into a struggling program.
“I knew I wanted to coach again at the college level, but only as a head coach,” said Bono.
“The school administration and the community are very supportive of our wrestling program, there is a huge youth program here and Brookings is a wonderful place to live and raise a family,” said Bono whose assistant coach is former UTC assistant and Southern Conference champion Israel Silva.
“South Dakota State had the nation's sixth best recruiting class this fall as we signed six quality high school wrestlers, including Brandon Brunner (three-time D-II state champion) from Baylor School so we are off to a good start in building a strong program.”
Returning to Chattanooga: Bono looks forward to seeing many friends in the Chattanooga wrestling community next week – Southern Scuffle is Jan. 1-2 at McKenzie Arena – but his main focus is how his wrestlers do against some of the top wrestles in the nation
“Chattanooga was good to me and my family while I was there for four years (three as the head coach) and I am excited about being back next week,” said Bono in a phone conversation earlier this week.
“We start five freshmen, but after two months of college wrestling under their belts they are not freshmen any longer and we need to see where we stand at the Scuffle,” he stated.
“With many of the top teams in the nation in one arena it’s going to be a great test for us.”
Southern Scuffle: Arguably the best in-season college wrestling tournament in the nation, the Southern Scuffle brings to McKenzie Arena (Jan. 1-2) the top three teams in the nation – Penn State (2012 NCAA champion), Oklahoma State and Minnesota – plus No. 6 Missouri, No 8 Cornell, No. 11 Va. Tech and No. 20 Virginia in the 22-team field.
The former Iowa State NCAA champion knows what it takes to produce a national-caliber program as he led UTC to three straight Southern Conference championships (2007-09), had two All-Americans (Matt Keller and Cody Cleveland), a No.20 finish at the NCAAs in 2007 and had wins over nationally-ranked Ohio State, twice.
While Chattanooga is a hotbed for Southern wrestling, Bono feels the same about South Dakota in the Midwest.
“South Dakota State is in a great recruiting area as we are 20 minutes from Minnesota and 40 minutes from Iowa where I wrestled in high school and college and high school wrestling is strong in South Dakota,” he stated.
Southern Scuffle Info: Jan. 1-2 at McKenzie Arena …
General Admission Tickets: Students - $5 … Adults $15.
Jan. 1 – wrestling starts at 10 a.m.
6:30 p.m. - championship quarterfinals
Jan 2 – Noon – championship semis
6 p.m. - championship finals
contact B.B Branton at firstname.lastname@example.org