The NCAA wrestling tournament begins tomorrow at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis. One of the participants will be Pomona’s own Jonny Bonilla-Bowman. Bonilla-Bowman, a redshirt junior from Hofstra, is making his third NCAA appearance.
He recently claimed his second Colonial Athletic Association championship at 157 pounds. In two years at Hofstra he has two championships, and Hofstra has won its seventh and eighth consecutive team titles. The latest was in hostile territory in Chesapeake, Virginia. The gym was filled with Old Dominion fans.
“They had posters all over the gym saying they were going to break our win streak,” he said.
I spoke to him yesterday after trying to reach him for several days. He was sick with a cold and cough and holed up in his room. He finally got back to lifting on Sunday and returned to the practice mat on Monday.
He’s not worried about the quick turnaround before the tournament. Before the CAA tournament he was out for weeks with torn cartilage between his floating ribs. The tournament was his first match back. Didn’t seem to hurt him.
His first opponent is Joseph Knox of Chattanooga, also a redshirt junior. Knox, ranked 27th by WrestlingReport.com, is 16-10. Bonilla-Bowman, ranked 14th by the website, is 22-7. Both are unseeded. Win and he will likely face undefeated No. 2 seed Michael Poeta of Illinois.
“The national tournament is a very long and very competitive tournament,” Hofstra coach Tom Shifflet said. “Every match is gonna be tough. John has worked hard this season and can do some great things at the tournament. There’s no promises. Everybody that goes into this thing knows there’s no promises no matter how hard you work. It just has to be your weekend.”
Bonilla-Bowman lost in the quarterfinals last year, then lost his first wrestleback.
Coming out of East Ramapo’s wrestling program, he was an All-American after placing third in states and seventh in nationals. He was 125-10 with 73 falls over his career. He chose to attend Virginia Tech, where he redshirted 2006 and won an ACC championship in 2007. However, that April was the infamous Va Tech shooting that left 33 people dead. Combine that with the fact that coach Tom Brands had earlier left the school to coach Iowa, the most storied program in college wrestling, and Bonilla-Bowman decided to move on.
He wrestled under new coach Kevin Dresser and his staff for one season, but “they weren’t the ones that I went there for.” He transferred to Hofstra, which had been one of his top choices coming out of high school.
You can watch the NCAA quarterfinals live at 11 a.m. on ESPNU and ESPN360.com, and the semifinals at 7 p.m. on ESPN2, ESPNU and ESPN360.com. The semifinals will be telecast in a side-by-side format, allowing viewers to see both semifinal matches in each weight class at the same time, both on ESPNU and ESPN2.
ESPNU will telecast the Championship Medal Round on Saturday, March 21, at 10:30 a.m., and the Finals at 6:30 p.m. on ESPN. During the Finals, two referees per match each will wear a microphone, providing fans with even more access to and understanding of the action.