The OHSAA bowling tournament journey begins in a matter of days, but with far less anticipation than football, basketball, or even baseball. Let me share with you…why!
I had the opportunity this past week to talk with a pair of media friends who lap me by years in terms of covering the OHSAA and Big Ten post-season tournaments. And the discussion centered around which of the post-season events do media people anticipate covering more?
Of course, the majority opinion was football, because, my God…it’s football!
And when I spent 15 minutes with Chick Ludwig on his Saturday WLW call-in show last week, he asked the same question. In Chick’s case, however, his question was about my all-time best basketball tournament memory. And that’s easy.
It was the Upper Sandusky-Dunbar game for the Division II title back in 2007. Jon Diebler scored 48 points in that game, and lost, because the game was so physical it became a travesty. I say this while there were still 38 personal fouls assessed for the game, to give you an idea of how uncomfortable it was to watch.
Those of you who have read me regularly for years understand my affinity for the OHSAA baseball tournament, in large part because it gets treated like an obligation. It’s something that has to be checked off the list before they call the school year complete. And for what it’s worth, you can say that about the entire spring sports season. Cold, wet weather, and you lose a couple of weeks? Sorry about your luck.
But I’m increasingly drawn to the boys and girls bowling tournament, and a conversation I had with former OHSAA administrative director Jerry Snodgrass, back in 2018, a year prior to our covering bowling on Press Pros. Snodgrass said, “If you can find the resources to cover bowling like you do football and basketball, I think you’ll see it’s all about the kids who compete.”
Words to that effect. And I’ve come to agree.
One, there is no question about officials, physical play, and advantage/disadvantage. It’s all about you and your ability to adjust to the conditions, maintain your composure through a long day of competition…and the fact of mental toughness.
Two, you can’t win at bowling through brute force, like you would in football. You can’t win because you’re tall, as in basketball. The closest corollary I can draw between bowling and basketball is that of free throws and picking up spares. If you make them it’s a point you wouldn’t have otherwise had. If you don’t, it can cost you the match.
Three, bowling embraces an entirely different culture of student/athlete, and this is where Snodgrass really made his point. He said, “You see kids who are good at bowling who wouldn’t have a shot a competing in any other sport like football, basketball, or hockey. It means everything to them. And you appreciate that.”
Well Jerry, to your point back then, I do appreciate it, and when I get the chance to be on WLW again with Chick I’m going to insist that we show more love to kids who bowl; and that the OHSAA tournament is coming up at the end of this month. The Div. II tournament, both boys and girls, is held on March 1 and 2, in Columbus. The Div. I tournament, both boys and girls, is held a week later on March 8 and 9.
There are usually so many conflicts with other sports at that time that I don’t always have the opportunity to go to it in person. But I will share with you that some of my best memories of the state tournaments happened at the Wayne Webb Bowling Center on South High Street, in Columbus.
Most recently, I was there for the 2021 event when two MAC boys teams, Versailles and Coldwater, were highly competitive in the final round before dropping out in the semi-final round. Now what made this so compelling was not the actual scores, which were good, but the possibility of Versailles and Coldwater actually meeting in the Division II final match. And they knew it. Seldom, ever, have I seen such competitive focus as I saw that day. It wasn’t to be, however, as Versailles lost to eventual state champion, Mechanicsburg…and Coldwater fell to Fairport Harding. But I can honestly say that what I saw that day was as good as Upper Sandusky and Dunbar, and without questions about officiating.
And, that same year, the Coldwater girls won their fifth state title in team competition, while Alison Fox finished runner-up in individual bowling, with a 665…30 pins short of the state champion.
Go back a year, to 2020, and I remember the spectacular performance of New Bremen’s Spencer Alig in the boys individual competition. He didn’t win it, but on the state’s biggest stage Alig bowled a 234, 225, and 224 (683) to finish 64 pins behind the eventual state champion, and eighth out of a hundred other bowlers.
That same year Coldwater’s Ryleigh Brown finished fifth, individually, and Fort Loramie’s Elena Bulcher finished 11th…and Coldwater had three girls finish in the top 25 – Brown, Jasmine Schulze, and Allison Fox.
A year earlier, in 2018, Troy’s Jenna Stone finished third in the state.
And in 2017, the Troy girls finished runner-up in the team competition.
The Sidney boys, won the Division I team competition in 2020, and their team banner hangs proudly on the gymnasium wall.
The Troy boys won the big school team title in 2011.
And of course, Coldwater has won the team competition more than any other Ohio school since the sport was constituted by the OHSAA in 2007…a combined nine times, including the first in 2007, and their last in 2021 when the girls won their fifth.
This is what I’ve seen in person over the years, but there’s so much more that time, and history, has overlooked, and my point is this. Just about anyone you meet who’s a sports fan can tell you what school won the football or basketball title, and the year they won it. And that’s fine, and natural. If people didn’t to see it in person, they read about it. They wouldn’t have that opportunity with bowling.
Because four…bowling gets even less media attention across Ohio than high school baseball and softball. No one ever shows up to write about weekly league competition, and the OHSAA record books are quite sparse, in comparison to all the coverage devoted to Friday and Saturday nights.
But all that’s written above you can see for yourself, if you go. The MAC conference tournament begins next weekend at Miracle Lanes, in Fort Recovery.
The following week the OHSAA journey kicks off, with sectional and district action kicks off at bowling centers throughout southwest and west-central Ohio.
And of course, the state tournament is being held in Columbus.
The difference in bowling? It’s the pride and will of the kids who bowl to perform at high levels while knowing they’re competing in a vacuum.
Who in their heart believe that the title they might win is just as earned, and relevant, as being Mr. Football, or Basketball.
And they don’t seem to mind…the indifference.