Today it was announced that South Dakota State head coach Chris Bono is headed to the University of Wisconsin. Bono will replace wrestling legend Barry Davis as the Badger head coach effective immediately. For the last few seasons, Bono has been considered the next man up for a “big program” job based on what he has done in his time at South Dakota State University. Just this season, the Jackrabbits had three All Americans including the school’s first national champion, were in the top ten in home attendance, and inked two high end recruits from the Twin Cities. In six years, Bono took South Dakota State from the verge of extinction to national prominence, and we North Dakotans also benefitted. The Jackrabbit-Bison rivalry, dominated for years by our mighty Bison, was turned on its head in December of 2015 when the Jacks won their first dual in the series since 2010. Since then, South Dakota State has won four consecutive match-ups against the Bison. Talk to anyone that has attended NDSU matches at Frost Arena in Brooking the last two seasons, and they will tell you the atmosphere was electric. The Bono-effect has given NDSU the strong backyard rival they badly need for both promotional and accountability purposes, and for those reasons, NDSU fans should be grateful for the Bono Era at South Dakota State. No, the four consecutive losses in in the Battle for the Border Bell haven’t been fun, but South Dakota’s State’s success under Coach Bono has increased excitement for NDSU wrestling fans as well, and at the same time forced the Bison coaching staff to work even harder. Bono had thousands of fans attending home matches at Frost Arena, crowned five All Americans in two years, made a deal with Flowrestling that put Jackrabbit wrestling out there for all to see, and created a social media presence including the #GetJacked slogan that was second to none in DI college wrestling. Bono is headed to Wisconsin because he set the bar of achievement for smaller programs, and I am grateful he did. Bison fans should hope that South Dakota State hires someone capable of keeping the Jackrabbits relevant nationally. If Jackrabbit admin can pull it off, NDSU fans will be spoiled with the continuation of what has become one of the strongest rivalries in the nation.
Thank you, Coach Bono, for what you have done for wrestling in BOTH of the Dakotas.