June 15. 2008 8:59PM
Bono 'probably done' after placing fourth
Chris Bono Fourth at Olympic Trials
By J.R. Ogden
LAS VEGAS ? Chris Bono left his shoes on.
In one of the most touching retirement gestures in sports, wrestlers who are calling it a career take off their shoes at center mat and walk away. Many did it here this weekend at the U.S. Olympic Wrestling Trials at the Thomas & Mack Center on the Nevada-Las Vegas campus.
Chris Bono left his shoes on.
"That's just not me," said the 34-year-old Bono, an NCAA champion at Iowa State in 1996 who started his chase for Olympic glory in 2000.
But this is it ? probably.
At 34 with a wife and two young daughters, not to mention a full-time job as head wrestling coach at Tennessee-Chattanooga, this should be Bono's third and final attempt at making an Olympic team.
"I don't have another four years in me," he said Saturday night, shortly after losing the third-place bout to another former Cyclone, Trent Paulson. "I'm probably done."
Although he never made an Olympic team ? he was second in the Trials in 2000 and fourth in 2004 and this year ? he has had a proud career.
Short in height at 5-foot-3, Bono has stood tall ever since donning the cardinal and gold singlet at Iowa State. He was too small to be a contender in college, his critics said, yet he won an NCAA title as a junior and finished second to Iowa's Lincoln McIlravy as a senior. He was a three-time All-American.
He dove right into his post-collegiate career in 1997 and was even better ? a three-time U.S. World Team member, three-time U.S. National champion and 2003 World Cup gold medalist. There are many more wins and runner-up finishes in international competition in a career that lasted 12 years. He was the U.S. national champ just last year and a runner-up in the World Team Trials.
He was outstanding to the end.
"I've had a decent career," he said, understating his achievements. "I'm proud to say I worked as hard as I could and just didn't get it done. It's been fun."
He didn't take his shoes off, but ...
"It's close," he said. "It's never definite, but it's a ... I think I'm done."
Bono should cherish his past and embrace his future ? those two young girls who hurt worse than he does after a loss, and his up-and-coming program at UTC.
Bono isn't done in this sport by any means. He will put together a team at UTC just as tough, just as determined as he is. It may never challenge for an NCAA title, but don't be surprised if Chattanooga isn't knocking on the Top 10 door in a few years.
Bono is a good man who will work just as hard as a head coach as he did as a wrestler.
Chris Bono left his shoes on, and with good reason. He's done competing, but he's not done with wrestling.
And the sport will be better because of it.
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