By John Bassetti
Carl Hurd is cognizant of the fact that his Canfield Cardinals can’t hide from the field of 15 other schools when the Division I boys’ state bowling tournament takes place Friday at Wayne Webb’s Columbus Bowl.
That’s the price paid when your school is defending state champion.
“I think people will be gunning for us — not because we’re Canfield, but because we’re the defending state champions,” said Hurd, the boys coach for an eighth year.
At district, the Cardinals were 19 pins behind champion North Olmsted.
Since Canfield repeated as a district runner-up for a second straight season, does it portend the same outcome at state for a second straight year?
Hurd isn’t one to rely upon the crystal ball.
“There’s no telling until we get down there and get started in competition, but I think our chances are as good this year as last,” Hurd saud. “I didn’t think we would win last year, but that’s how it fell. We have a good group of boys and I wouldn’t want any other guys throwing the shots. I love the team we got and I think we’ll do well. Everyone who makes state earned that spot and all are capable of shooting well at any time.”
How does Hurd perceive the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s divisional setup for bowling for the first time this season?
“There will be some new names this year, which, I think, has helped some teams and hindered others,” he said.
Even so, Canfield has to be considered a favorite, especially since all five of its starters make a return trip to Wayne Webb’s.
“We have some who have been there before, so, hopefully, the experience will pay off,” Hurd said of seniors Paul Harris, Tyler Frklech and Austin Leonard, junior Ben Shoman and sophomore Andrew Letscher.
“We lost two of our top six from last year and our seventh bowler from last season stepped up pretty good this year,” Hurd said of the departure of Mike Dercoli and Anthony Bettile and the elevation of Leonard to the No. 5 spot.
Also going to state will be sophomore Pat Neilson and freshman Tyler Murphy and junior Pete Byrne.
Harris had the third-best individual three-game score last year.
“It gets fairly intense,” Hurd said of competition at state. “A lot of people don’t think of bowling as difficult, especially in the context of skill and pressure inherent to other sports. The patterns [at state] can be humbling because they put much more emphasis on shot-making and spares.”
Of the generic graph of patterns available for viewing online, Hurd thinks he can accurately interpret Wayne Webb’s conditions.
“They [the graph], generally, help coaches decide how the kids should play the lanes,” he said. “It’s just a starting point to get an idea of where they should play on the lane. They’re not giving much away because it plays different on different lane surfaces. Coaches just have to be able to pick up [from what see] and know how to piece it together.”
Hurd said that Wayne Webb has synthetic lanes, while most surfaces on area lanes are wood.
“The majority of time our kids are playing on a higher-friction surface, so Wayne Webb might end up playing a little tighter than what it would play on wood,” he said.
Any Canfield bowler is capable of putting up a big score at any given time.
“At state, the kids who are mentally strong and keep their nerves in check are, generally, the ones who perform the best.”
Friday’s competition begins at 10 a.m., with three individual games followed by three Baker system games, the sum of which will determine the eight teams that qualify for matchplay. The best three-of-five Baker pinfall in head-to-head matchplay will advance to the semifinals.
Making the trip to compete as an individual will be Boardman High’s Jake Wagner, a junior with a 208 bowling average and 4.0 grade-point-average.
Wagner became the first boy to represent his school at state, individually, when he qualified out of the Riviera Lanes district with a fourth-best 619 series score [when the top six not on a qualifying team advanced]. His set was seventh-best overall.
At district, Wagner zipped past teammate Jon Tiberio, who was the sectional champ at Mahoning Valley Lanes on Feb. 16 with a 668 three-game total. Wagner rolled 650 at the sectional.
Boardman’s first bowler to advance to state individually was Ciara Moran in 2006.
“He throws a couple Storm balls, he’s very smooth and uses his intelligence on the alley to find the line and makes changes when has to,” coach Al Dohar said of the right-hander, who practiced for the last two weeks at Boardman Lanes.
Dohar’s Spartans last qualified for state as a team during the 2011-2012 season.
“We’ve had either the boys or girls to state every year except the last two,” Dohar said.