Jacks wrestling to face big-time opponents

JALEN WILSON Sports Reporter

Young athletes look to make their mark this season


th the autumn season here and the winter weather on its way, the Jackrabbit wrestling team is gearing up for a run at becoming a national qualifier.

High expectations rest on the shoulders of Head Coach Chris Bono and the return of their leader Cody Pack, a highly anticipated season is on the way for the Jacks.

“We are looking to make it to national qualifiers, we need to make sure we have All-Americans and are looking to finish in the top 20 by the end of the season,” Bono said. 

Bono is coming into his fourth season as head coach of the Jacks wrestling team with an overall record of 22-28. He is coming off of a winning season in which he led the Jacks to an 11-8 record and finished 7-3 at Frost Arena. 

There are some big changes to this year’s wrestling season as the Western Wrestling Conference, which the Jacks have previously wrestled in, has now merged with one of best wrestling conferences in the nation in the Big 12.

When asked what this meant for his program, Bono said he understood the importance of this jump to major conference.

“It’s big, it’s great for our guys to compete, it helps us in recruiting, scheduling and elevates our program to an elite level.”

This might be one of the toughest schedules the Jacks have had in recent memory due to the competition they will face.

The Jacks have already had a match with Minnesota, which is currently ranked 16th in the nation. The toughest and most gruesome part of the schedule will be Nov. 21 through Dec. 4. They will wrestle three nationally ranked teams in a row and even the No. 1 team, Oklahoma State University, Nov. 27 at Frost Arena. 

Coach Bono says that he made the schedule like this for a reason.

“We really want to make sure our guys know once they get to the national tournament what to expect,” Bono said.

Returning athlete Cody Pack will lead with way for the Jacks this year according to Bono. This year’s team includes 16 freshmen, making it one of the youngest teams in the conference.

Pack is a three-time national qualifier and was one win away from earning All-America honors last year.

Pack will act as a mentor to this young Jackrabbit squad.

“For our young guys, he is someone that they can look up to and see how he handles things is very, very important,” Bono said. 

One freshman Bono said he believes will contribute right away is Anthony Cefolo from Florham Park, N.J. who was a three-time state champion.

After being named the starter, Cefolo has already shown his ability by upsetting the No. 16 wrestler in the 125 pound class this past weekend in Minneapolis. 

Nate Rotert, who also was a national qualifier last year in the 197-pound class, earned high praise from Bono.

“We expect him to be an All-American. He’s got the skill level and the work ethic to be one of the top eight in the country.”

Rotert is coming off a shoulder injury but Bono says he should be good to go.

“He is almost a year out from when the surgery was done, I’m not worried about his past injury, just keeping his whole body healthy,” Bono said. 

With the great competition, the return of Cody Pack, and a move to one of the best conferences in the nation, the Jacks wrestling season will be one to keep an eye on.