Finals Preview: A Decade of Pinfalls

February 28, 2013

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Beginning with Friday's Team Finals, the MHSAA will cap a decade of bowling as a sponsored sport by awarding 16 champions over a 30-hour period.

On the girls side, a number of previously-successful teams and individuals should contend again. The boys Team Finals in particular should be a little more unpredictable, with two of four 2012 champions not qualifying for this season's field. 

All Team Finals are Friday, and Individual Finals are Saturday. Click for the full list of girls qualifies and boys qualifiers, and come back to Second Half all weekend for coverage from all four Finals sites.

Girls Division 1

Team: Reigning champion Davison has been ranked No. 1 in the last two coaches association polls and rolled the highest Regional score, 3,876. Only Macomb Dakota – a Quarterfinalist last season – came within 170 pins of matching the Cardinals last weekend, rolling a 3,865. Second-ranked Muskegon Mona Shores did win its Regional, tallying a 3,683.

Individual: Reigning champion Allison Morris was only a freshman last season when she defeated then-junior Kristen Young of Clinton Township Chippewa Valley 393-354 in the Final. Both are back, along with six more of last season’s match play qualifiers. Davison senior Brooke Wood was a Semifinalist in 2012 and Sterling Heights Stevenson senior Lauren Krywy was an all-state first-team selection. Wood’s 1,310 was 72 pins more than any other Regional score in this division last weekend.

Boys Division 1

Team: There definitely will be a new champion in this division, as 2012 and 2011 winner Macomb Dakota didn’t qualify for Friday’s tournament. Nor did 2012 Semifinalist Davison, although runner-up Canton did get in with a third place at its Regional. Unranked Utica was the fourth Semifinalist last season and posted the division’s highest Regional score of 4,156, followed at its Regional and overall by also-unranked Macomb L’Anse Creuse North (4,144).

Individual: This could be the most unpredictable of the weekend’s events, with none of last season’s Division 1 match play qualifiers back for these Finals. But Division 2 champion Derek Nyenhuis is rolling in this division this season, and was runner-up at his Regional. Another intriguing possibility is Utica senior Josh Pointer, who bowled last year for Dakota’s team champion and threw a 300 in winning his Regional with a 1,392. Only two others – Kalamazoo Loy Norrix junior Zach Brandt (1,371) and Grand Blanc senior Travis Sutherland (1,321) broke 1,300 pins in Division 1 last week. 

Girls Division 2

Team: Flint Kearsley claimed its first championship last season by 161 pins over runner-up Tecumseh, and those two plus Semifinalists Jackson Northwest and Charlotte all are back this weekend after claiming Regional championships. Although third-ranked Holly did not qualify for the Finals, No. 4 Bay City Western did by finishing second to Kearsley at their Regional. Jackson Northwest’s 3,934 was the highest Regional score in the division.

Individual: Only four of last season’s match play qualifiers in this division weren't seniors, but three are back at the Finals including reigning champion Jordan Richard. The Tecumseh senior won her Regional by 25 pins over sister Haley, also a senior. Teammate Lauren McKowen, another senior, also is back after making the 2012 match play. Richland Gull Lake senior Samantha Knight rolled a 1,199 for the top Regional score in Division 2 last weekend, and three other 2012 Finals qualifiers also won Regionals.

Boys Division 2

Team: Like in Division 1, there will be a new champ as last year’s winner, Mason, didn't qualify. But Bay City John Glenn lost to the Bulldogs by only three pins last season and won its Regional by 123 with a total of 3,923 to finish ahead of No. 2 Bay City Western and No. 3 Flint Kearsley at their site. Top-ranked Swartz Creek also won its Regional, but the high score in the division went to unranked South Lyon, 4,013.

Individual: With Wyoming’s Nyenhuis now in Division 1, the only match play qualifier coming back in Division 2 is Bay City John Glenn senior Nathan Moszyk, who won his Regional with the second-highest score in his division for the day. The best belonged to Holly senior Andrew Anderson, who rolled a 1,359 to win his Regional by 127 pins.  

Girls Division 3

Team: Reigning champion Flat Rock defeated runner-up Richmond by 106 pins in last season’s Final, but with 3,619 was only 10 better than the Blue Devils for top Regional score in Division 3 last weekend. Six of last season’s Quarterfinalists will be back Friday, with unranked Cheboygan one to watch after rolling the third-highest Regional score in this division, 3,550.

Individual: Although seven of last season’s 16 match play qualifiers are back this weekend, this championship could land with any of a number of contenders with only Richmond junior Noelle Scheuer back among 2012 Quarterfinalists. She won her Regional with the third-highest score in D3 last weekend – a 1,202 – while Flat Rock senior Lindsay Risden was first for the weekend with a 1,325 and Alma junior Hannah Chase was second with a 1,297. Chase was the top match play qualifier last season, and Risden missed the group by just 23 pins.

Boys Division 3

Team: Reigning champion Fremont is ranked No. 1 again and qualified second at its Regional behind unranked Hudsonville Unity Christian. Ishpeming and South Haven both will be back as well after making the Semifinals last season. Ishpeming was one of four teams to break 4,000 pins at a D3 Regional, where it finished runner-up to No. 8 Pinconning – the top roller in the division for this round with a score of 4,366.

Individual: Onsted senior Cory Hunt, Unity Christian junior Troy Potgeter and Otsego junior Ryan Lovett all made the Quarterfinals last season, and Hunt won his Regional last weekend. A contender to keep in mind is Essexville-Garber senior Ethan Ayala, who qualified for the Finals last season and threw the best Regional score in Division 3 last weekend of 1,361. Bridgeport senior Oscar Gutierrez was just behind him with a 1,327.

Girls Division 4

Team: All eight of last season’s Quarterfinalists advanced to Friday’s championship tournament again, with reigning champion Sandusky (3,347), runner-up Vandercook Lake (3,618) and three others winning Regionals. One of those, Portland St. Patrick, rolled the division’s highest Regional score of 3,673.

Individual: Vandercook Lake likewise could dominate this competition, with three who made the match play last season back again. Junior Jessica Bunch won her Regional with a 1,233, with teammates Becky Cecil (senior), Malloree Ambs and Kelsea Reichard (both juniors) rounding out the top four – and any of the four would've won two other Regionals with their scores. Watch for Sandusky junior Melissa Sleda, a Finals qualifier in 2012 and the second-highest roller of all Division 4 Regional competitors last weekend with a 1,168.

Boys Division 4

Team: Rogers City is ranked only No. 6, but it’s the reigning champion and won its Regional by 237 pins. But top-ranked Sandusky – a Semifinalist last season – plus No. 2 St. Louis and No. 5 Bad Axe all are in Friday’s field as well. Unranked Ravenna posted the highest Regional score in Division 4, 3,847.

Individual: Only four non-seniors made the 2012 match play, and only Whittemore-Prescott senior Cody Clough is back for Saturday – he advanced to the Quarterfinals last season. Muskegon Western Michigan Christian senior Jacob Bush made Finals weekend last season, and could be a contender after winning his Regional with a Division 4-best score of 1,341.

PHOTO: St. Louis sophomore Zach Fenby hopes to help the Sharks win their first MHSAA team championship this weekend. (Click to see more at HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)

Fast-Building Fowlerville Bowling Program Growing Into Striking Success

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

January 26, 2023

HOWELL – The Fowlerville bowling program started with a question.

Mid-MichiganBrent Wood was an eighth grader, bowling in the local rec department junior high league, when he saw the Howell High School team practicing a few lanes over one afternoon. He’d enjoyed bowling with his family growing up, but what grabbed his attention that day was the friendly atmosphere at the Highlanders’ practice – everyone seemed to be having fun.

So he asked his mom Denise, a speech therapist in the Fowlerville district, why their school didn’t have a team too.

She went to athletic director Brian Osborn for the answer, and it was a pretty simple one – the athletic department hadn’t been able to find a coach to start one up.

“I’m the kind of mom that if my kid wants it, I’ll see how I can make it happen,” Denise Wood said. “And when Brent is driven by something, I know he’ll do well at it.”

Denise Wood figured out how to bring high school bowling to Fowlerville – and then some.

Never before a coach, nor a bowler outside of family fun, she agreed to start a Gladiators high school bowling program – one that four years later has two varsities and a JV team and had to make cuts this winter for the first time.

Building any program from ground level is full of challenges. Throw in a pandemic, and it gets tougher for sure. But knocking down obstacles has been like knocking down pins – it’s a bit of a theme for the quickly-growing program, its coach and the now-senior who got things rolling.

Bowling began for Brent

Brent Wood had played baseball and flag football and wrestled growing up. He tried everything his mom would let him, and that’s impressive enough – he doesn’t have a complete right hip, just bone on bone where the femur and pelvis meet.

Brent Wood shows his left-handed, left-footed bowling style. Considering that challenge, opportunities in those other sports faded as he grew older. And he wasn’t a big fan of school either. But Denise Wood knew a bowling team would motivate Brent to stay active and do well academically.

Does it hurt where that hip padding should be? Brent said no – it just feels like what he knows to be normal. But Mom said she can tell when it does, and he’s had 13 surgeries over the years. Brent still managed to play those sports and learn how to ride a bike with just his left leg – “and I still manage to bowl somewhat decent some days,” he said.

He’s actually become an all-league bowler – most recently finishing ninth at the White Lake Lakeland Invitational last weekend – while employing an uncommon style.

Generally, a left-handed bowler will land on the right foot when releasing the ball. Wood instead lands on his left, or opposite foot, to stay off the right one.

Denise Wood describes it as being a “very non-traditional single-handed lefty who has figured out how to make it work.” Brent said when he first started this bowling style, it was a little complicated – but last summer he took lessons and upped his knowledge by competing in a number of tournaments and against a variety of oil patterns. Additionally, “Over the summer I’ve seen one or two people land on the wrong foot like I do,” Wood said, “so I know I’m not the only one who does it.”

He'll be the second Fowlerville bowler to continue at the college level. He’ll join friend Trevor Cockerill, who graduated last year, at nearby Cleary University where he’ll compete for coach Hayley Dann – who impressed the family by telling them that instead of trying to change Brent’s style, she’ll “work with him with what he’s got,” Denise Wood recalled.

“That’s the coach I need, because that’s what Brent does – he works with what he’s got,” Denise said. “Brent is naturally athletically talented, and when it comes to stuff that’s athletic he’s quite the problem solver. He figures out how to do things.”

Starting from scratch

Mom figured things out, too.

Denise Wood calls herself a “google coach” – as in, she googles to learn drills and pick up tips on how to better guide the Gladiators. But considering the system she and her assistants have built over a short time, she’s not giving herself enough credit.

When Wood first asked Osborn why there wasn’t a program, she followed up by asking if a potential coach needed to be a good bowler. Osborn said not necessarily – if she was willing to learn the bowling side, he would help with how school-based sports work and take care of as much paperwork as possible.

Fowlerville’s girls and boys teams this season, including head coach Denise Wood, top row far left, and assistants Kevin Mahon and Kelli Wilbur. Challenge accepted.

First, the team needed somewhere to bowl. Fowlerville has made its home at Howell’s Bowl-E-Drome, about a 20-minute drive for practices twice a week.

The bowlers arrived. Fowlerville’s first season in 2019-20 saw 10 boys and two girls come out, making up a co-ed varsity and boys junior varsity team.

Next came “learning the bowling side” – and definitely, the internet helped. Mining various bowling websites and coaching resources, she’s put together a series of drills – all of her bowlers have copies of each in a folder they keep on hand – and with assistants Kelli Wilbur and Kevin Mahon designed practices to begin at the start of the season with skills assessments and then be organized by ability level to provide for more focused attention and instruction. The bowlers also make use of the school’s weight room one day a way – adjusting all of this around schedules for students who also dance, play in the band and train for other sports.

Wilbur and Mahon are experienced bowlers, and their additions have allowed Wood the last few years to focus more on team-building activities and administrative responsibilities like signing up for tournaments and data collection. For competitions, the three coaches take turns coaching each team so that all three become familiar with all of the Gladiators’ styles.

The majority of the bowlers are newcomers to the sport. Junior Emma Wilbur – Kelli’s daughter and the top roller on the girls team – counted herself and two more teammates who had grown up bowling.

“A lot of kids that come in, come in with no bowling experience whatsoever. They just heard it was fun, they wanted to be part of a team,” Wood said. “So this year we actually did an interview for the kids – they had to fill out a personal interview for why they came out for bowling. A lot of it was to have fun, become part of a team, and some kids said to become a better bowler.”

Turning to Paige

After a promising start, the program simply had to survive its second year.

With COVID-19 making everything more complicated, Fowlerville found itself with only five bowlers for the 2020-21 season – and couldn’t even bowl as a team at its Regional with Emma Wilbur in quarantine. Families weren’t allowed to watch competitions, and just getting the word out was a challenge.

Fowlerville’s Paige Frazier, top, and Emma Wilbur. But Paige Frazier saved the day, figuratively speaking – and more realistically, potentially the program.

She solved some of the information block by starting Facebook and Instagram feeds for the bowling program that included video streams of competitions and updated information on cancelations and quarantines. “It definitely brought in a lot of attention,” Frazier remembered.

“If we hadn’t had Paige our COVID year, we wouldn’t have had a season at all,” Wood said. “Paige, I call her my female rock, because she kept the team alive.”

The work done during the COVID season paid off as the team got back in gear for last winter. The bowlers added to their social media marketing by hanging up fliers and getting word out on the program in the school’s morning announcements, and for 2021-22 enough bowlers came out to have separate girls and boys varsities for the first time.

“I had a lot of people ask me about it. A lot of people didn’t even know about it for a good two years,” Emma Wilbur said. “I had a couple friends who said they would try it out.”

Off and rolling again

The interview results from tryouts this season check out. While the team is serious about competing and succeeding, having fun and being part of a team are top priorities for most. The car rides to practices and bus rides to competitions are the best parts.

There’s still some convincing to do among classmates who might not consider bowling a sport. “They laugh about it until they find out we have a 1:30 dismissal for all the meets,” Wilbur said. But she and Frazier both play other sports too – Wilbur soccer and Frazier tennis – and realize the value in what they’ve helped create.

“I think being able to do something that you love to do, with all of your friends, a sport that you can go and do on the weekends and go and do after school … anytime that you want to you can go and do that,” Wilbur noted.

“Bowling's a really social sport,” Frazier added, “so you just learn to get along really well with your teammates, and just kinda relax and enjoy it.”

The Gladiators bowl in league matches once a week and have tournaments most January and February weekends through the regular season. Osborn said he’s excited to see so much interest at each grade level and is hopeful the program will continue to grow.

Brent Wood asked a winning question. The answer has been even better.

“It’s nice to see that we got everyone together that loves to do what we love to do,” Brent Wood said.

“Just seeing everyone enjoy the moment.”

Geoff Kimmerly joined the MHSAA in Sept. 2011 after 12 years as Prep Sports Editor of the Lansing State Journal. He is a senior editor of  MHSAA.com's editorial content and has served as MHSAA Communications Director since January 2021. Contact him at Geoff@mhsaa.com with story ideas for the Barry, Eaton, Ingham, Livingston, Ionia, Clinton, Shiawassee, Gratiot, Isabella, Clare and Montcalm counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Fowlerville bowler Ethan Hall begins his approach. (2) Brent Wood shows his left-handed, left-footed bowling style. (3) Fowlerville’s Paige Frazier, top, and Emma Wilbur. (4) Fowlerville’s girls and boys teams this season, including head coach Denise Wood, top row far left, and assistants Kevin Mahon and Kelli Wilbur. (Photos courtesy of the Fowlerville bowling program.)