The Harlem boys bowling team earned the first state championship in school history in boys bowling last year. Now the Huskies are faced with the challenge of trying to repeat. They have the talent to put them in the hunt this weekend in O’Fallon.
Three key seniors from last year’s championship team graduated, but now here the Huskies are one of the favorites again to win it all.
“It’s hard to fill shoes like Jake Nimtz, Dawson Jones, and Collin Day,” says Harlem coach Nick Whitmire of the graudated bowlers. “They were big names for us for a couple years there, so I wouldn’t have told you at this time last year that we will definitely be in this position, but I would have told you that we’ll at least contend and do our best.”
The Huskies warmed up for State last Saturday by winning the DeKalb Sectional. They’re top five bowlers averaged 217 and a half pins per game over six games.
“As a team six games I think it was the best that we’ve put up all year,” says Whitmire.
The Huskies’ biggest competition at state is likely to come from Hononegah. The Indians finished second to the Huskies at the Sectional last week. Hononegah also finished second to Harlem last year at State.
So do the Huskies pay a lot of attention to how Hononegah is bowling during the course of a Sectional or a State competition?
“Honestly yea we sometimes do because it’s like one of our biggest competitors,” says Harlem bowler Kyler Gerl.”
Freeport will also be at state and the Pretzels could also be a threat for the top spot. O’Fallon will also be another team to keep an eye on.
“I see it being kind of a three or four horse race. That type of thing,” says Whitmire. “We don’t discount anybody. Things can happen. People come together at the right time. We did it with last year as a team.”
So does the fact that the Huskies are defending champions add pressure or does that take pressure away because they’ve already got a championship under your belt?
“It adds a little bit of pressure because teams are going to be coming at us harder,” says bowler Noah Mandujano.
“We’ve just got to stay confident and worry about ourselves,” says Gerl. “You’ve just kind of got to narrow your focus down to what’s going on in the moment on the lanes.”
The State Tournament will run Friday and Saturday. Several local individual bowlers will also compete in O’Fallon Brandon Folk of Rockford East, Matt Seigel of Rockford Auburn, Mason Robbins of Rockford Lutheran and Austin Strite of Oregon.