Bono to Create More Memories at ISU
AMES, Iowa – The well-known saying “Home Sweet Home” comes to mind for ISU assistant wrestling coach Chris Bono. Ames is a familiar place for Bono. Not only is it the hometown of Iowa State athletics and its countless years of tradition-rich Cyclone wrestling, but Ames was Bono’s home for five years as a student-athlete and nine years as an ISU assistant coach.
Bono is back on Iowa State’s coaching staff for a second time. This time it is under head wrestling coach Kevin Jackson. Countless memories come to mind for Bono when recalling his first stint of time at Iowa State.
“My favorite memory as an athlete was definitely when I won the (150-pound) national championship in 1996,” Bono said. “My favorite memory as a coach was when we beat Iowa in 2003 for the first time since 1987. But personally, meeting my wife (Niki) here in Ames is tops and both my kids (Josie and Ellie) were born here at Mary Greely Medical Center.”
As a Cyclone wrestler, Bono was nothing short of stellar. He amassed 130 wins, ranking fifth on ISU’s all-time victory list. The NCAA 150-pound title Bono won was the 54th individual national title won in Iowa State’s program history. The Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. native realized what wrestling meant to the Cyclone faithful in his time as a student-athlete.
“As a wrestler it was awesome,” Bono said. “The crowds created a lot of good memories for me. But I can tell you, when I came back into Hilton last year as an opposing coach, the crowd was unbelievable and the atmosphere was electric.”
Iowa State’s fervent fan base not only makes for memorable moments but Bono knows it also acts as a draw for some of the top prep wrestling talent in the nation.
“Our fans are second to none,” Bono said. “We want kids to know that they are wrestling for fans that are knowledgeable and excited. The dual crowds are great and our team is also supported at the NCAA Championships by crowds that are at least 1,000 people strong.”
Head coach Jackson begins his first season at the helm of the Iowa State wrestling in 2009-10 and Bono knows this is the place to be at this point in his career. Bono left his own head coaching post at Tennessee-Chattanooga to grasp the opportunity.
“(Coach Jackson) is the only coach I would leave a head coaching job for,” Bono said. “I love this place. It’s my alma mater. There is something going on with this place that I truly believe in. To be able to come back here to coach is the best.”
Bono returns to Ames with plenty of experience from the mat as well as the coaching corner, making him a valuable asset to ISU’s program.
“I’ve learned a ton,” Bono said. “At my last job, I was doing it with a short staff, so I had my hands in everything. There was fundraising, scheduling and running a budget. I’ve learned everything. I did it all off the mat and everything in between.”
Bono concluded his collegiate wrestling career in 1997 but was a fixture on the national freestyle scene for many of the following years. Bono was a U.S. World Championships team member in 2001, 2002 and 2005. He won U.S. national titles in 2003 and 2005. Bono will now put all his focus into coaching the ISU wrestlers and developing world-level talent.
“We will be able to make these guys better,” Bono said. “With ISU being an Olympic Training site, I’ll be able to help the wrestlers here with training for the Olympic-level and becoming a champion.”
The goal of the Iowa State’s wrestling program is to be the best and Bono has set his coaching goals appropriately. Bono’s experience as a student-athlete at ISU helps him set the most important objectives first.
“We want student-athletes with high academic aspirations,” Bono said. “We are going to preach to them to go get a master’s degree. We aren’t just telling them to come for four years. We want them to be here for eight years, wrestling for World titles and going after a higher education.”
Once ISU’s wrestlers are out of the classrooms and onto the mats, Bono outlines ISU’s direction clearly.
“Our goal is Big 12 and NCAA championships,” Bono said. “Our staff is going to bring home championships and crown individual champions. During the offseason, we’ll get World and Olympic champions.”
It is good to have Bono back in Ames.