Winners, outright, or a share of the first three MAC league bowling titles – and nine state titles between boys and girls – Coldwater is again at the top of the standings and statistically have the top five bowlers in average in the league.
New Bremen, OH – As baseball legend Casey Stengel used to say, “You can look it up if you don’t believe me.”
Look up what?
Three years after adopting bowling as an official MAC sport the records show that the Coldwater Cavaliers have won the conference title twice, and shared it once with Versailles.
And now six weeks into its fourth season of competition, the Cavs are undefeated in league (5-0) well ahead in terms of total pins, and their top five bowlers also happen to be the top five bowlers in the league, average-wise, as well – Caleb Wendel (225), Carter Bertke (214), Nick Wehrman (212), Kayden Giere (210), and Drew Eyink (209.7, almost 210).
“It’s another good group of kids,” said coach Rick Hartings Saturday at New Bremen’s Speedway Lanes, where so many people packed in to watch the competition that house proprietor Brian Alig had to shut off the heat.
“And they keep getting better each year, they work harder each year. People ask me if this is the best team I’ve ever had, but that’s hard to answer because the kids we had years ago were pretty good, too. Some things have changed, but these kids know what happened in the past and it seems to make them work that much harder.”
In other, more notable and widely popular sports – football, basketball, and baseball – there would talk of a dynasty, like Marion Local has presently in football. Winners of 14 titles in 17 state title appearances since 2000, there’s very little argument.
But is bowling relevant enough to make the same claim? No other OHSAA school can make the claim of nine titles won (boys and girls) since the OHSSA sanctioned bowling in 2007, so is that relevant enough?
“I think it is,” says junior Austin Burden, who’s averaging 201 thus far this year, but under his average of a year ago.
“We’ve won the league every year, we work at it, a lot of practice, and we have great coaches and facilities. I really don’t everyone who’s bowled at Coldwater before me because I’ve been on the team for two years, but the younger guys are all aware. It’s really cool to be a part of something like this. We do get a lot of compliments around school, a lot of encouragement, and people tell us they’re amazed to watch us.
“And we can do better. I can do better…the right ball, the right adjustment, and keep practicing. I can feel it coming.”
But by far the most impressive bowler thus far as been fellow junior, Caleb Wendel, whose 225.2 average is nearly 12 pins better than the next closest to him in average, teammate, Carter Bertke.
Bowling since he was nine years old, Wendel is infatuated with the sport and it’s pretty much come naturally. Only his grandfather, in terms of family, has any history of bowling.
“Our consistency is a big thing,” says Wendel. “We’re always at the bowling alley working on things – practicing – and it really helps that our coach owns the bowling alley.”
Like other football schools around the state read about Marion Local on Press Pros during the fall, more schools with bowling traditions are beginning to pay attention to these pages when we write about Coldwater – interested in their chances to qualifying for another trip to the state finals, come February.
“I think it’s fair to talk about a dynasty in bowling because we’ve worked very hard to always put our best effort forward,” says Wendel. “I know we get pretty decent respect at school from the other sports. Coldwater is a pretty good school in that way. They know we take it seriously. I’ve been doing this since I was nine and I got started by bowling in a Saturday league at Pla-Mor (Lanes), and I thought it was the coolest thing ever to go up there and get pizza on Saturdays.
“Over the years I learned to bowl better, learn the things I need to do to improve…I’ve definitely changed a lot since I started.”
If you ask him about his greatest influence in bowling, Wendel doesn’t hesitate.
“E.J. Tackett,” he says with a smile. “He’s so smooth, I watch him when he comes to Coldwater for the PBA tournament in August, and he signed my shoes last year. He’s a good guy. I got to bowl with him.”
Let the nine titles speak for themselves. No one else has that many, but rarely do you find a group of kids committed to an out-of-the-mainstream sport, like bowling, more than those at Coldwater. Caleb Wendel just picked up a ball for the first time eight years ago.
“I’m really happy with how I’ve done this year,” Wendel adds, and always with a smile. “I didn’t expect it, but I like to outdo my expectations, anyway. I think I’ve done that so far.”