Preview: Returning Champions Ready to Roll Again

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

March 23, 2021

This weekend’s MHSAA Girls & Boys Bowling Finals could be characterized by lots of opportunity during Friday’s team competition – followed by chasing of past champions in singles on Saturday.

Five team champions are back from 2020. But only Bronson’s girls, with two straight Division 4 titles, are looking at a streak longer than a repeat.

Five of last season’s eight singles champions also will be back to provide some intriguing punch to Saturday’s tournaments – although that said, there have been only three repeat individual champions since the start of MHSAA Bowling Finals in 2004.

Below is a look at possible contenders for all eight championships, both team and singles. Action begins both days at 8:25 a.m., with Division 1 at Allen Park’s Thunderbowl, Division 2 at Waterford’s Century Bowl, Division 3 at Jackson’s Jax 60 and Division 4 at Canton’s Super Bowl. Click for the full list of qualifiers, and come back to Second Half all weekend for coverage from all four Finals sites.

Division 1 Girls

Team: An Ottawa-Kent Conference team has won the last two Division 1 titles, and the league has two candidates to continue the streak including the reigning champion. Zeeland (a co-op of East and West) won last year’s Final by 30 pins and rolled a Division 1 Regional-high 3,666 last weekend to edge Hudsonville’s 3,366 at Muskegon’s Sherman Bowling Center. Lake Orion and Westland John Glenn also are back after making the match play last season, and John Glenn is coming off a Regional title at Taylor’s Skore Lanes. Davison won five of six championship between 2012-17 and is back in the mix after also winning a Regional title, by 50 pins over the Dragons at Waterford’s Century Bowl.

Singles: Four bowlers who made last season’s Finals match play will compete in this division again this weekend. Wyandotte Roosevelt junior Angelita Rodriguez rolled a Division 1 Regional-high 899 to win her tournament at Skore Lanes and reached the quarterfinals last season – where she lost to Farmington senior Carrington Beaman, who also is back coming off a fourth-place Regional finish. Westland John Glenn senior Anna Maxwell finished runner-up at Skore last weekend after also making the quarterfinals a year ago. Belleville’s Katherine Dybicki made the Finals match play a year ago, and finished sixth at Skore last weekend. Davison junior Emma Hawley, Holt junior Angelita Mireles, Salem senior Amanda Ellenwood, Muskegon Mona Shores senior Bailey Graham and Farmington Hills Mercy senior Maddie Briggs also won individual Regional titles.

Division 1 Boys

Team: Ten of the 12 finalists rolled at least 3,800 pins at their Regionals and five reached 3,900. A few of the frequent contenders again help fill this field – starting with 2018 champion Waterford Kettering, which rolled a Division 1 Regional-best 4,059 to claim the title at Waterford’s Century Bowl. Reigning Finals runner-up Salem, which also won the 2017 title, is back after a runner-up Regional finish last weekend. Swartz Creek is back after making the match play in 2020 and is seeking its first title. Macomb Dakota’s 3,939 to finish second to Kettering at Century Bowl would have won every other Regional – although Utica Ford (3,931) and Rockford (3,936) also won Regional titles and Grand Haven was only seven pins off the Rams’ pace at their tournament.

Singles: Reigning champion Izaac Goergen will return as a senior for Midland and finished third at a Regional last weekend at Royal Scot in Lansing that also included Holt junior David Schaberg, another 2020 quarterfinalist. Brownstown Woodhaven senior Marco Ramirez made the semifinals last season and is hoping to take the next step or two, and Clarkston senior Patrick McLetchie also will return after making the match play a year ago. Traverse City West junior Jeremy Decker won the Regional at Royal Scot with Goergen and Schaberg, and he was joined among champs last weekend by Salem senior Jaydon Kurowski, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern junior Carson Hommes, Utica Ford junior Andrew Martin, Livonia Churchill senior Alex Maki and Macomb Dakota senior Gregory Guzik II.

Division 2 Girls

Team: This tournament will feature some significant clashing of powers. Reigning champion Mason returns coming off the highest Regional score in any division, 3,867 at Kalamazoo’s Continental Lanes, with four of last season’s top six bowlers also advancing to the Singles Finals. Tecumseh has finished Division 2 runner-up three straight seasons and came up just one pin short against the Bulldogs last season; Tecumseh also won its Regional last weekend, at Westland’s Town & Country Lanes. Also back in the hunt is Flint Kearsley, which had won six straight Division 2 titles and seven in eight seasons before falling to Mason in a semifinal last season. St. Clair Shores Lake Shore made the Division 1 Finals match play in 2020 and is in Division 2 this time, and also won a Regional title last weekend.

Singles: Kearsley senior Megan Timm returns after winning last season’s championship, as does Warren Woods Tower sophomore Kayla Tafanelli, who made the semifinals last season and won her Regional last week at Oak Lanes in Westland. Coldwater senior Rilee Cooper-Lewis, Charlotte senior Abigail Mather, Kearsley senior Allison Eible, Carlton Airport junior Kayla Peterson and Wayland sophomore Kadence Bottrall all also made the Finals match play last season. Bottrall won her Regional last weekend, also joined among Regional champs by Kearsley sophomore Sara Ritchie, Charlotte junior Adriana Good, Whitehall junior Karli VanDuinen and Tecumseh junior Abby Werden. Rolling second at Oak Lanes was Lake Shore senior Dani DeCruydt, who finished Division 1 Finals runner-up as a sophomore and also made the match play in that division last season. VanDuinen made the Division 3 quarterfinals a year ago.

Division 2 Boys

Team: Reigning champion Jackson Northwest is rolling into this Finals with plenty of momentum after posting a Division 2 Regional-best 3,951 at Continental Lanes. The team’s top four scorers from last season’s championship match all are back and also qualified for the Singles Finals. Grand Rapids Kenowa Hills – a runner-up to Grand Rapids Northview at the Regional at Westgate Bowl in Comstock Park – is the only other team from last year’s match play that advanced to this weekend. Tecumseh, the Finals runner-up in 2019, just missed rolling the top score last weekend with a 3,944 to win at Town & Country Lanes.

Singles: Reigning champion Noah Tafanelli of Warren Woods Tower also is back seeking a repeat as a senior and won last weekend’s Regional at Oak Lanes. Northview sophomore Kyle Pranger was the singles champ at Westgate and made the semifinals before running into Tafanelli last season. Chelsea senior Luis Carvallo, Northwest senior Brayden Metcalf and sophomore Ryan Wenman and Cadillac junior Dylan Vermilyea all also made the match play in 2020. Bay City John Glenn sophomore Logan Larive, Marshall sophomore Kameron George, Niles sophomore Trenton Phillips and Tecumseh freshman Owen Williams also won Regional titles last weekend as eight of 12 champs or runners-up from that round were underclassmen.

Division 3 Girls

Team: Seven teams have filled the eight first or second places in Division 3 over the last four seasons – and the one team to do so twice, Birch Run, is one of only two teams in this weekend’s field that has won a Finals title. The Panthers claimed the Division 3 championship in 2017 and were runners-up in 2019, and Flat Rock was the champion in 2012. The other 10 finalists are seeking their first Finals title, but there is some experience contending. Caro made the semifinals last season and Armada made the match play, and both won Regional titles last weekend. Kent City was a Regional runner-up last weekend but finished Division 4 Finals runner-up a year ago.

Singles: As seniors dominated the 2020 singles bracket, this weekend should provide plenty of opportunities for a new group of contenders. Hillsdale senior Karissa Manifold made the quarterfinals last season but is the only returning bowler to advance that far. But Armada senior Samantha Dulz and Cheboygan senior Morgan Jones both also made last season’s match play and won their Regionals last weekend in leading the highest-scoring team Regional champions in Division 3. Ovid-Elsie senior Mikayla Kelley, Muskegon Oakridge senior Breanna Medacco, South Haven junior Harlee Burrows and Canton Prep junior Anika Fields also won Regional titles last week, Burrows with a Division-best 872 to finish first with Manifold second at Joey Armadillos in Niles. Clinton senior Hallie Kittle made the match play in Division 4 last season.

Division 3 Boys

Team: Armada won its second Finals championship in six seasons last year and claimed the Regional title last weekend on a tie-breaker over Flint Powers Catholic at Richmond’s Strikers Entertainment Center. Three of Armada’s top five bowlers from last year’s championship match are back. Reigning Finals runner-up Boyne City also was a Regional champion last week, at Cheboygan’s Sparetime Lane, while Livonia Clarenceville joined Kettering in Division 1 as the only boys teams to break 4,000 pins at Regionals, rolling a 4,050 to win at Flat Rock Lanes. Powers and Belding join Armada and Boyne City as the only return qualifiers in this division.

Singles: Six of last season’s match play qualifiers are back this weekend, with Napoleon senior Brandon Teddy the top advancer from 2020 having made the quarterfinals. Also back are Jonesville senior Alexander Bumpus, Clarenceville senior Ryan Bishop, Belding junior Trenton Altman and Essexville Garber seniors Braedyn Hofmeister and Zachary Moore. Clarenceville junior Jacob Johnson had the highest Regional-winning score in the Division at 925, with Boyne senior Michael Deming close behind at 923. Ovid-Elsie senior Ian Hehrer, Portland senior Josh Rutkowski, Armada senior Dylan Malinowski and Quincy senior Brandt Neely also won Regional titles.

Division 4 Girls

Team: Bronson has won the last two Division 4 team titles and is the only team in this field that has won a Finals championship in this sport. The Vikings reached this weekend as the Regional runner-up to Hanover-Horton last weekend at Jax 60 in Jackson. Those two rolled two of the top three team scores in the entire Division during the Regional round, joining Ishpeming Westwood. As noted above, last season’s runner-up Kent City is in Division 3 this season, but Traverse City Christian made the semifinals and Fowler and Ravenna both made the Division 4 match play last year; the latter two are both coming off Regional titles.

Singles: Kassidy Alexander was the highest Regional scorer for that top-scoring Hanover-Horton team, and she’s also the reigning Division 4 singles champion after earning a seven-pin victory in 2020. Oscoda senior Andrea Bickel and Ishpeming Westwood junior Kylie Junak both also made the semifinals last season, while Vandercook Lake senior Arielle Oakley and Pittsford senior Kathryn McArthur also made the match play. Rogers City junior Chandra Ganske, Fowler senior Lauren Speers, Reese senior Haleigh Seeger, Ravenna senior Heidi Kloostra, Burton Atherton junior Sheila Dugdale, Pittsford sophomore Brooke Vanous and New Haven senior Jessica Carl all won Regional titles last weekend, Speers and Seeger tying for first at Crooked Creek in Saginaw.

Division 4 Boys

Teams: We could have a first-time champion in Division 4; of eight qualifiers, only St. Charles (in 2010) has won a Finals in this sport. St. Charles was second at its Regional at Crooked Creek to Ithaca, which rolled a Division 4 Regional-best 3,513. Both reached the match play last season, as did Manchester which advanced to the semifinals and also won a Regional title last weekend at Tecumseh’s Ten Pin Alley. Homer and Muskegon Western Michigan Christian joined Ithaca as breaking 3,400 pins in winning Regional titles.

Singles: Reigning champion Hunter Haldaman is coming off last weekend’s championship won with an 815, the second-highest score across all Division 4 Regionals. The Traverse City Christian senior’s semifinal opponent last season, Aaron Stephens of Breckenridge, also is back this weekend as a senior, and Lakeview junior Riley Devereaux is back after making the quarterfinals in 2020. Joining Haldaman as Regional champs last week were Manchester junior Bobby Stemen, Jackson Lumen Christi sophomore Jackson Kremer (with a Division 4-best 866), Western Michigan Christian senior Ryan Michael, Burton Bendle senior Cody Angle and Pewamo-Westphalia senior Ethan Mandeville.

PHOTO: Bowlers warm up prior to the start of last season’s Division 4 Finals at Royal Scot in Lansing. (Photo by Rob Kaminski.)

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.)