For the past four years, West Deptford High School senior Rory Bonner has been a model example of a student-athlete. His exemplary work both in the classroom and on the wrestling mat was rewarded with interest from some of the most prestigious institutions around.
When it came time to select a college, Bonner's final three choices were Bucknell, Penn and Duke. In the end his decision was made on comfort level.
Signing to become a Bucknell Bison just felt right.
“I went on my official visit to Penn and I just didn’t like it there. I didn’t fit in,” Bonner said. “I knew that at Bucknell I would fit in better. It was the place I wanted to be.”
In Bonner, the Bison will get one of the area's best wrestlers. Bonner finished fifth at states last year at the 182-pound class and will be one of the favorites to bring home a state title this year. He also earned All-American status by finishing in the top eight at the National High School Coaches Association’s junior nationals in Virginia Beach. That tournament featured eight state champions and seven other wrestlers who finished in the top five of their respective states.
Bonner first became interested in Bucknell after talking with newly appointed West Deptford wrestling coach Christian Scannell, whose brother attended the university. After one visit, it became clear to Bonner that Bucknell was the right place for him.
“When I went there, I just really liked it there,” Bonner said. “I felt like it was the right place for me to really take me to where I want to be.”
One of the things that enticed Bonner was serious work and commitment the Bucknell wrestlers showed in the practice room.
“What really stood out to me was how they run their practice and weight-training,” Bonner said. “Also, it’s a very good school.”
Bucknell is coming off a down season on the mat, going 4-16, but has a history of being competitive in the Ivy League, while also having several wrestlers show well at the NCAA Championships.
“I’m really excited to get there,” said Bonner. “They have done really well, but I feel like the class I am coming in with should make a big impact. All of us are pretty good wrestlers in high school and I think it will translate collegiately once we get there and start training.”
Bonner plans on making a few tweaks to his wrestling style this winter to best prepare himself for the Division I level. He emphasized the need to take the action to his opponent while both are on their feet.
“College is so much different, so I just fell like I need to get better at every aspect, almost—definitely the neutral aspect,” Bonner said. “I need to get more aggressive.”
Now that choosing a school is out of the way, Bonner can turn his focus to winning a state title. If he achieves that goal, he would be the first West Deptford wrestler to win a state title since 1964.