Bono vs Larkin is the new Bout of the Week on USA Wrestling Audio Video website

By Gary Abbott | Feb. 24, 2006, 11:24 a.m. (ET)
USA Wrestling has updated its new "Bout of the Week" which has been posted as a video file on-line on Audio/Video website .

The feature this week is the Chris Bono vs. Eric Larkin men's freestyle match in the finals of the 2006 Dave Schultz Memorial International Championships in Colorado Springs, Colo. The bout features the current No. 1 wrestler in the United States against one of the nation's most talented young stars is an emerging rivalry in a very loaded weight division.

Chris Bono of the Sunkist Kids is among the veteran stars on Team USA, who remains active in the sport at age 32 because he has not yet reached his goals and dreams within freestyle wrestling. Eric Larkin of the Sunkist Kids is among the most talented young wrestlers in a loaded weight class in his nation, looking to find the edge that would take him to the head of the pack.

When they wrestle each other, with a gold medal in a major international tournament at stake, the action is outstanding and the only thing that matters is who can emerge with a hard-fought win against a talented rival.

Bono was a high school wrestling star from Florida, who went on to Iowa State Univ. to wrestle for the legendary Bobby Douglas. In college, Bono was able to win a NCAA title in 1996, and was a three-time All-American. A star from the Univ. of Iowa, Lincoln McIlravy, wrestled Bono often in important matches, including the NCAA finals, and McIlravy was able to beat Bono each time.

His rivalry with McIlravy continued into international wrestling, where McIlravy became No. 1 in their weight class and won World and Olympic medals for the United States. Bono became a talented freestyle wrestler to was consistently high in the rankings, but unable to unseat McIlravy from the top spot. Bono lost to McIlravy in the finals of the 2000 Olympic Team Trials. After winning an Olympic bronze medal in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia, McIlravy stopped competing.

Bono's first breakthrough came in 2001, when he won his first World Team Trials and represented the U.S. at the World Championships, where he did not place. In 2002, Bono made the U.S. World Team again, but was unable to test himself at the World Championships when the U.S. team did not attend the event held in Iran due to a threat to the team's safety received prior to the tournament. Bono showed great promise, winning many medals at international events, including wins over a number of world medalists.

In 2003, Bono won the U.S. Nationals, but did not make the U.S. World Team. Jamill Kelly of the Gator WC came out of the Challenge Tournament to surprise everybody and win the World Team Trials, beating Bono in the finals. In 2004, Kelly held onto the weight division, winning the national title and making the U.S. Olympic Team. Kelly ultimately won a silver medal at the 2004 Olympics. Bono, however, was defeated at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Challenge Tournament and placed fourth.

Bono decided to continue competing after 2004, and returned to the No. 1 spot in his weight division last year. He won both the U.S. Nationals and the World Team Trials, but at the World Wrestling Championships in Budapest, Hungary, Bono dropped his first match and did not place. The 2006 season offers Bono another opportunity to make his mark at the World level.

Larkin came from a high school wrestling power in the Southwest, Sunnyside High School in Tucson, Ariz. He became a four-time All-American for Arizona State Univ. His placements at the NCAA Tournament went from fourth to third to second to first. In his senior season, Larkin won the Dan Hodge Trophy as the nation's best college wrestler that season.

Even during college, Larkin's freestyle achievements on the Senior level were already impressive. While an underclassman in college, Larkin placed a strong third in the 2000 Olympic Trials.

He has shown that he has the potential to take the next step in the international styles, winning often and displaying strong skills on the mat. He has won gold medals in both of the major U.S. international events, the Sunkist Kids/ASU International Open and the Dave Schultz Memorial International. In 2004, Larkin was third in the U.S. Olympic Team Trials. Larkin is still seeking his first U.S. World-level team berth on the Senior level.

The Dave Schultz Memorial International is a great event early in the international season to test athletes, not only against others within the United States, but also against some talented international competitors. The field at the 2006 Dave Schultz Memorial may have been the strongest in the eight year history of the tournament.

Bono worked his way through the tournament, beating Ron Groves of the United States and Dimitar Georgiev of Bulgaria in the first two matches. In the semifinals, Bono avenged his loss at the 2005 World Championships to Canada's Evan McDonald, with a solid 2-0, 1-0 victory.

Larkin also progressed through the field on his side of the bracket, beating Su-Yong Lee of Korea and Jamarr Billman of the USA in the opening rounds. In the quarterfinals, he stopped another talented American, Jared Frayer, 2-1, 1-1, then needed three periods in the semifinals to get past Japan's Tsukasa Sato, 0-1, 4-3, 6-0.

Bono won the first period, 3-0, but Larkin, wrestling well on the mat, emerged with a 6-5 victory in the second period. The deciding third period was hotly contested, but Bono was able to score the takedowns for a 4-0 win and a victory in the match. It was one of the most entertaining bouts of the tournament, and showed the skills of both wrestlers.

This popular feature will be changed on a regular basis, allowing members to enjoy many of the greatest matches in wrestling history.

Posted in the archive section of the Members Only web page is the 2006 Makhach Murtazaliev vs. Zaur Botaev men's freestyle match at the Ivan Yarygin Memorial Golden Grand Prix held in Krasnoyarsk, Russia. Many other entertaining and historic matches are in the archive section for the Bout of the Week.