MINNEAPOLIS — Hustle. Effort. Attitude. Chris Bono has used these tenets as the foundation for his programs. He put Brookings, S.D., on the NCAA Division I map in six seasons at South Dakota State. The former Iowa State NCAA champion has applied the same approach in his first season at the helm of Wisconsin.
“We have a philosophy that we stick to,” said Bono, who replaced former Iowa and Cedar Rapids Prairie legend Barry Davis who retired at the end of last season. “We don’t compromise our principles. It’s not for everybody. We just preach to these kids hustle, effort and attitude in all phases of their life. We’ll deal with the results.”
Bono helped lead the Badgers to a seventh-place finish with at least six national qualifiers at the Big Ten Wrestling Championships on Sunday at Williams Arena. He said Wisconsin wrestlers demonstrated the traits he feels are so important during the two-day tournament.
The Badgers placed seven in the top eight, including top-four finishes from Cole Martin (141), Evan Wick at 165 and heavyweight Trent Hilger.
“As you can see our guys have fought hard,” Bono said. “They’ve done it the hard way through the backside and that’s everything that we’ve done. Our training has paid off through this tournament and hopefully it will pay off in two weeks in Pittsburgh.”
Bono added former Iowa two-time NCAA champion and three-time Linn-Mar state titlist Matt McDonough to his staff. He also brought former Iowa State NCAA champion Jon Reader with him from SDSU. He wasn’t going to make the move without him, entrusting Reader in recruiting and running workouts.
“He’s family to me,” Bono said. “He’s everything this program is about.
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“If he wasn’t coming, I wasn’t leaving and that’s how important it was to me. There aren’t many guys out there that understand exactly what we want. We developed it together.”
Bono said the season has been a great experience, despite the transition.
“Obviously, we don’t have our first recruiting class until August, but we’ve recruited well,” Bono said. “Guys have competed well. They are adjusting to our style. It’s been great. We’re fired up about the future.”
LYON QUALIFIES FOR NCAAs
Purdue sophomore and former Western Dubuque two-time state champion Max Lyon earned his first trip to the NCAA Championships, placing seventh at 184 pounds. Lyon entered the tournament as the eighth seed and grabbed one of the Big Ten’s automatic bids.
“The first goal is to get to the show and place as high as you can,” Lyon said. “I’m pretty happy to get down there this year.”
Lyon has grown as a wrestler. He has been more dialed in during practice, concentrating on specific details. Lyon is more confident and has identified his best holds and positions. He has transferred that into execution during competition.
“There are good and bad situations in each match,” Lyon said. “Overall, I’m pretty consistent with my game plan these days. I think that is what got me to make nationals.”
Lyon went 3-2, improving to 23-12 this season. His 8-1 victory over Wisconsin’s Mason Reinhardt in the placing round was a good way to close the tournament and head into the national tournament in Pittsburgh, Pa., on March 21-23.
The goal is to reach the podium and then place as high as possible.
“You just want to wrestle to the best of your ability. Like (Purdue) Coach (Tony Ersland) says, every match is important but none are special. The most important match is the one in front of you. It was good to end on a win, for sure.”
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Seeding any wrestling tournament is a crapshoot at times. For the most part, the top-two Big Ten seeds were wrestling in the finals this year.
Eight of the 10 weight classes featured No. 1 vs. No. 2 in the championship bouts. The two exceptions were at 133 and 141 pounds.
Michigan’s top-seeded Stevan Micic injury defaulted once he reached the semifinals, allowing Ohio State’s No. 5 Luke Pletcher to reach the 133 finals against Rutgers’ NCAA finalist and third-seeded Nick Suriano, who topped Iowa’s No. 2 Austin DeSanto in the semifinals.
The 141 bracket was scrambled when Nebraska’s eighth-seeded Chad Red upset Illinois’ No. 1 Michael Carr in the quarterfinals and followed it with a win over Michigan’s No. 5 Kanen Storr. Ohio State’s No. 3 Joey McKenna reached the final, winning a toss-up with Penn State’s No. 2 Nick Lee in the semifinal.
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