Tuesday, February 26th, 2008
By Gary R. Rasberry
Coldwater boys and girls bowlers back at state
Celina to visit Tiki Lanes for first time
  It's tough to call a second trip to state a tradition, but the Coldwater boys and girls bowling teams are certainly building a tradition in just the second year of the state bowling tournament.
Both teams, along with the Celina boys team, head to Lancaster this week for the second OHSAA State Bowling Championships at Tiki Lanes.
For the Coldwater boys, who won the first OHSAA state title last season, it's the first chance to defend their state title after beating St. Henry in the championship series last season 3-1.
"I think it's great to be able to try and get back," said senior Josh Waltmire. "I didn't bowl much last year (at state), but just the energy, from not even touching a bowling ball, it's going to be a great time, win or lose. I'm going to enjoy regardless."
Last year the underclassmen like Wes Stienecker, Justin Franzer and Waltmire took a back seat, so to speak, to seniors like Jared Moeder and Tyler James, coming up with key games in the state tournament to keep the team going.
This year, Waltmire (the district champion with a 683 series), Stienecker (652 series) Franzer (599) and Chad Linvingston (557) are the veterans, but underclassmen like Dennis Hogan (615 series at district) are ready with big games.
"Last year, the underclassmen didn't really pull their weight until it came down to state, then we did," said Stienecker. "This year we have like five strong starters where everybody is pulling their weight. Our five bowlers are all in the top five in averages. That's a plus this year."
The fact that some of the big rollers this season are returning is a help.
"It helps right away," said Waltmire. "Even the first varsity match is stressful. When you bowl at state, it's a whole different thing. ... It's so much more energy. It will be a little better."
The confidence to repeat is high.
"Rick (boys coach Rick Hartings) said at a meeting last week he wanted to win (districts) by 300 pins," said Stienecker. "We all looked at him like he's nuts. We about won by 400 pins (377 to be exact). We haven't played any of the big city teams like Fairmont. But I think we can do it next year."
For Celina, the chance to make the trip after not competing in the postseason last year is a great feeling.
"It's real nice considering we didn't get to go last year," said senior Jordan Gehle. "We're just going to try and make the most of what we've got."
"This year it's something big, something different," said senior Jordan Brookhart. "Lot of us haven't had a chance to compete on a level this big. It's amazing."
The Bulldogs went 9-4 during the season, but made a run in the postseason, concluding with runners-up honors at the district by a mere 15 pins over Bowling Green.
"Basically we really came on the past couple of weeks," said Gehle. "We're bowling a lot better than we had during the year. That's what got us this far, so we have nothing to lose going forward."
"We're going to try and do the best we can," said junior Craig Everman. "We're going up there early, bowl there and see what the lanes are like. Not a whole lot you can prepare for."
Celina coach Jeff Schott is proud of his group.
"We have seven guys who are all close and like to hang out together," said Schott. "...Our last week in league, we were high team in the league. At sectionals we were second place there."
As for the Cavalier girls, the goal is to make it to the championship bracket - the top eight. Coldwater was 11th last season, just 38 pins from eighth place.
Veteran Katie Muhlenkamp, the district champ this season, is ready to head down.
"Last year was definitely awesome," said Muhlenkamp. "Hopefully it will be just as good this year, same environment and everything."
Coldwater was 11-2 in the regular season, two games back of undefeated Wapak. The Cavaliers picked up the pace at the right time, being the only WOHSBC team to qualify for state in girls.
"We definitely peaked on Saturday," said Muhlenkamp. "It's great to finally overcome the teams we weren't able to overcome during the regular season."
With the team peaking at the right time, the hope to make the championship round is high.
"I'll say we'll do better than last year," said senior Angie Hoyng. "We really didn't do well last year but this year we're more consistent. We'll be better and a little more competitive."
The fact that both Coldwater teams are heading down to state is fun.
"It definitely gets everyone pumped up," said Hoyng. "We kind of push all the nerves aside. We're here to have fun, but at the same time, be serious. With everyone else there cheering on, it gets rid of 3/4 of those jitters you have when you're up there."
The boys will bowl on Friday with team qualifying and individual competition starting at 11 a.m. Championship action starts at 3:15 p.m.
The girls will follow the same schedule on Saturday.
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