Chris Bono has engineered a successful rebuilding process during his tenure as head coach of the South Dakota State University wrestling program
Now in his fourth season, Bono has helped mentor Jackrabbit wrestlers to qualify for the NCAA Championships seven times and has recorded a 22-28 dual record as he leads SDSU into a new era during the 2015-16 season as an affiliate member of the Big 12 Conference.
During the 2014-15 season, the Jackrabbits recorded their first winning dual in nine seasons and three SDSU wrestlers – Cody Pack, Nate Roters and J.J. Everard – qualified for the NCAA Championships. Pack reached the national tournament for the third consecutive year at 157 pounds and was one win away from achieving All-America status.
The Jackrabbits turned in their highest finish at the NCAA West Regional/Western Wrestling Conference Championships with a third-place finish.
SDSU also had three NCAA qualifiers during the 2013-14 season as Pack, Joe Brewster and Alex Kocer all qualified out of the NCAA West Regional/Western Wrestling Conference Championships.
As a team, the Jacks finished in fifth place with 34.5 points at the NCAA West Regional/WWC Championship, with Kocer and Pack winning individual titles at 149 and 157 pounds, respectively.
In his first year as head coach at SDSU, Bono led the team to a 5-12 dual record, 1-4 Western Wrestling Conference record and fifth in the conference standings.
Coach Bono and the SDSU coaching staff ushered in a new era in Jackrabbit wrestling with the sixth-best recruiting class in the nation (The Open Mat, Amateur Wrestling News). Eight student-athletes joined the wrestling team on signing day, including three ranked by AWN. The No. 6 ranking made it the best recruiting class for any sport in the history of Jackrabbit athletics.
Bono was the first NCAA Division I wrestling coach to participate in the Samaritan’s Feet movement, coaching a dual barefoot against Simpson (Iowa) during the 2012-13 season to raise awareness for the organization, which provides shoes for needy children around the world.
While leading the Jackrabbits, Bono was also tabbed as coach for the U.S. Men’s Freestyle team at the 2013 Pan American Championships. In the world event, Bono led Team USA to a 13-point victory.
Under Bono’s leadership, the Jackrabbit wrestling program has consistently raised the bar in promoting the sport through innovative social media strategies. SDSU has received the Gold Standard honor from the National Wrestling Coaches Association and Elite Level Sport Marketing each of the past two seasons as part of their Best of Brand Awards.
Overall, Bono has a 61-45 dual record in six seasons as a collegiate head coach. He previously served three seasons at Chattanooga (Tenn.), where he led the Mocs to three Southern Conference titles and coached two All-Americans and 19 NCAA qualifiers from 2006-09.
During his three seasons, UTC scheduled many nationally ranked teams. Bono coached the Mocs to wins over Ohio State in 2009 and 2010; the Buckeyes were ranked No. 8 at the time of the second loss.
Bono was named head coach at UTC on July 29, 2006 and wasted little time directing the Mocs to their 22nd Southern Conference championship. He coached nine wrestlers to the 2007 NCAA Championships, a feat matched only by Minnesota.
In his first season, Bono guided the Mocs to a 16-1 dual-match record, including an 11-match win streak to start the season and a victory at No. 14 Ohio State. He received high consideration for National Coach of the Year honors from RevWrestling.com.
Bono joined the UTC staff in 2005 after serving nine years as an assistant coach at Iowa State. He was the Cyclones' head assistant coach for five seasons.
In Bono's final year on the ISU staff, the Cyclones earned a third-place finish in the Big 12 Conference and a sixth-place showing at the NCAA Championships. He was named the National Wrestling Coaches Association Assistant Coach of the Year in 2002 for his role in ISU's success.
Bono lettered at Iowa State from 1994-97 and ranks fifth on the program's all-time wins list with 130 victories. He won the NCAA 150-pound title as a junior.
A four-time NCAA participant, Bono placed fifth at the NCAA Championships as a sophomore and second as a senior. As a freshman, he finished eighth at the Big Eight Conference Championships and was runner-up finish his sophomore year. Bono won the Big Eight title as a junior and was named the Most Outstanding Wrestler at the inaugural Big 12 Conference Championship in 1997. He was 115-17 his final three seasons.
Following his senior season, Bono wrestled as a freestyle competitor and defeated Doug Schwab, 5-4, to take third place at the 2004 U.S. Olympic Trials in Las Vegas, Nev.
In 2003, Bono won the 145.5-pound title at the U.S. Senior Freestyle National Championships in Las Vegas, qualifying for the World Team Trials in Indianapolis, Ind., where he was runner-up. Bono was a U.S. World Cup team member, earning the gold medal at the 2003 World Cup Wrestling Championships in Boise, Idaho, and was a member of the national team at the 2003 Titan Games in San Jose, Calif.
Bono earned the U.S. Senior Freestyle No. 1 national ranking at 145.5 pounds and a spot on the U.S. World Team. He began the year with a first-place showing at the Dave Schultz Memorial in Colorado Springs, Colo., followed by a fourth-place finish at the Kiev Grand Prix in Kiev, Ukraine. Bono won a bronze medal at the Pan American Championships in Caracara, Venezuela, and placed third at the U.S. Freestyle National Championships in Las Vegas, earning a berth to the World Team Trials.
At the 2002 World Team Trials, Bono swept through the mini-tournament beating Reggie Wright (Gator WC) of Colorado Springs, Colo., 3-1 and Schwab (Hawkeye WC) of Iowa City, Iowa, 3-2 to advance to the finals. In the 145.5-pound championship, Bono defeated Jamill Kelly (Gator WC) of Stillwater, Okla., 3-1 and 3-0, earning his second consecutive World Team Trials title.
In a special wrestle-off for the 145.5-pound spot on the 2002 U.S. World Team, Bono defeated Bill Zadick (Hawkeye WC) of Iowa City, Iowa, two matches to one, 2-3, 3-1, 3-2 (OT), to earn his second consecutive trip to the World Championships. However, the U.S. World Team did not compete at the World Championships in Tehran, Iran.
Bono captured top honors at the 2004 NYAC Invitational with a victory in the finals over 2004 NCAA champion Jesse Jantzen, formerly of Harvard. He also earned a 66-kilogram title at the 20th annual Sunkist International Open with a win in the finals over former 2003 NCAA 149-pound champion and current Arizona State assistant coach Eric Larkin.
Bono competed at the 2005 World Championships in September in Budapest, Hungary. At the 2005 World Team Trials, Bono, the No. 1 seed, captured the title at 66 kilograms by defeating Jared Lawrence two matches to none.
In May of 2006, Bono beat Japan's Kohei Fujimoto (1-0, 2-0), Uzbekistan's Muradollo Ablokulov (2-4, 1-0, 2-0) and Russia's Jirair Oganesyan (1-1, 5-4) at the Independence Cup Grand Prix in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. He finished with the silver medal after losing 0-1, 2-1, 1-1 to Russia's Andrey Sementsov on a takedown with 14 seconds left in the final period. Sementsov was the reigning Junior European champion.
Bono won the 2007 U.S. Freestyle national title in Las Vegas and received an automatic bid to the World Team Trials. Seeded fourth at 145.5 pounds at Nationals, he defeated second-seeded Lawrence for the title. At the 2007 World Team Trials, Bono finished runner-up to Schwab in the finals by a 2-1 score. He lost in the challenge finals in Las Vegas at the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials.
Bono earned his bachelor's degree in Exercise and Sports Science from Iowa State in 1997.