By Patrick Brettingen

When this bowling season began last fall, bowlers and coaches knew that all roads led to Green Bay.

“Titletown” was where the 2023-34 high school bowling season wrapped up in stellar style with the 2024 BCAW High School Bowling Club State Championships March 1-3.

Regular-season competition that began back in November in 14 statewide districts culminated with the 26th annual state tournament held at The Ashwaubenon Bowling Alley – one of the state’s premier bowling centers – in Green Bay. A total of 77 teams and 163 singles competitors hit the lanes before cheering standing-room only crowds to compete for state championship hardware and about $5,000 in scholarships.

In the boys’/coed category, Sheboygan South High (whose home center is Lakeshore Lanes in Sheboygan) won the Division 1 championship, while Baraboo High (bowling out of Thunderbird Lanes in Baraboo) claimed the Division 2 title.

Sheboygan Area Co-op (Lakeshore Lanes) captured the girls’ Division 1 championship while Merrill/Tomahawk (Les & Jim’s Lincoln Lanes in Merrill) won the Division 2 title.

In singles’ competition, Dayden Koback of Stevens Point Area (5 Star Lanes in Plover) won the boys’ crown while Maggie Porter of Cambridge High (Prairie Lanes) captured the girls’ title.

The Storm Doubles Scholarship Tournament was held concurrently during the state tournament weekend, offering bowlers another chance to win scholarship money. Just more than $7,000 in scholarships will be awarded at the Storm Doubles event.

Fans jammed the 60-lane center and enjoyed exciting bowling action all weekend starting with singles and Baker-style team qualifying on Friday and Saturday, and singles semi-finals and team stepladder starting Saturday night. That set the stage for “Championship Sunday,” which included stepladder title matches in boys’ and girls’ singles and boys’/coed and girls’ team in Division 1 and 2.

Sunday’s finals were webcast by Emil Williams’ BowlStream TV with ESPN Madison’s Jesse Nelson providing commentary. PWBA pro and former international star Gazmine “GG” Mason – representing Storm Products – joined the webcast.

In boys’/coed Division 1 stepladder action, third-seeded Sheboygan South downed Muskego, 366-336, in a before topping second seed Waukesha West, 399-385, in Saturday night’s semifinals to earn a spot in Sunday’s title match with top-seeded Bay Port. On Sunday, Sheboygan South started strong with a 225 and went on to defeat Bay Port 406-357 in the two-game Baker match for the state title.

Meanwhile in boys’/coed Division 2, fourth-seeded Baraboo won three matches Saturday night to advance to the championship match. In the semifinals, Baraboo topped fifth seed Sheboygan Lutheran/Oostburg, 363-348, before taking down third-seeded Brown Deer, 423-371. In the next match against second-seeded and defending D2 state champion Marinette, Baraboo got off to a slow start with a 149 game while Marinette shot 221. But in the second game, Baraboo put it together for a 243 game to earn a tie with Marinette, which rolled a 171. But in the two-frame roll-off, Baraboo doubled to put away Marinette, 57-28.

In the title bout on Sunday, Baraboo rolled games of 246 and 212 to easily down top-seeded Antigo, 458-389, and claim the state championship.

Baraboo head coach Larry Ludtke said it was an emotional moment for himself and his seniors to achieve the outcome they’ve all worked so hard toward – a state championship.

“It is rewarding to see the time and effort our coaches, parents and students have put into building the Baraboo High School Bowling Club and bringing home a championship,” said Ludtke, who has spent about 10 years with the Baraboo program. “I would have to say that what I am most proud of regarding this team is how they worked together to support each other all season along with the mindset to never give up. This was demonstrated in our match that we came back from being down 72 pins to tie it up and win the rolloff.”

In girls’ Division 1 team competition, fourth seed Sussex Hamilton edged fifth seed Baldwin by nine pins to earn a date with third seed Sheboygan Area Co-op. Sheboygan Area Co-op defeated Sussex Hamilton, 337-309, before taking down second seed Kenosha Tremper/Indian Trail Academy/Shoreland Lutheran, 359-335, to earn a spot in the final.

The final on Sunday was a rematch of last year’s title match between Sheboygan Area Co-op and top seed and defending champ Sun Prairie East/Sun Prairie West/Marshall/Cambridge. But Sheboygan Area Co-op turned the tables this time, taking down the Sun Prairie co-up club, 357-337, to earn the state title.

“I am so proud of these girls and their dedication to each other,” said Lisa Roerdink, head coach of the Sheboygan Area Co-op squad. “We worked together throughout this season. But they reached as far as they could, with the D1 championship as their top goal.  As a team, it feels great to be a champion, the smiles on the girls were the best reward. After winning the title in Green Bay we came together, Bill (Hilbert, assistant coach) and I were both crying.”

In the girls’ Division 2 stepladder finals, fifth seed Beaver Dam and fourth seed Antigo opened up by tying after two games at 354. Beaver Dam prevailed 58-49 in the two-frame rolloff and moved on to meet third seed Campbellsport. Campbellsport won that match, 322-298, to move on to meet second seed Waukesha North and a berth in the finals. Waukesha North proved too strong and defeated Campbellsport, 349-292, and moved on to face Merrill/Tomahawk in Sunday’s championship match.

The title match saw Merrill/Tomahawk start strong with a 237 to Waukesha North’s 189. Waukesha North rallied in the second game to shoot 214, but Merrill/Tomahawk’s 167 was just enough to win the two-game match by one pin, 404-403, to take home the state title.

“The feeling of our girls winning the state championship is unbelievable,” said Merrill/Tomahawk coach Brad Krueger, who noted this was the first year Merrill has fielded a girls’ stand-alone team, which included a bowler from Tomahawk High. In the past Merrill girls’ bowlers joined boys’ bowlers on co-ed teams. “The amount of support we received from both towns before and after the state tournament was overwhelming.”

“We as coaches are extremely proud of how our girls handled adversity all year,” Krueger continued. “We as coaches are extremely proud of how our girls handled adversity all year. They never got down on themselves or a teammate if someone made a bad shot. They were always looking to build each other up whether it was during practice or at a meet.”

In singles competition, fourth seed Addison Kohl of Oostburg started off the stepladder by defeating fifth seed Marley Krueger of Merrill, 182-171. Kohl was then defeated by third seed Natalie Hirsch of Hartford Union, 206-158. Hirsch then ran into second seed Porter.

Porter, a smooth-rolling left-hander, strung together two beautiful games playing outside up the boards for the title. Porter defeated Hirsch, 256-163, before taking down top seed Holly Orgeman of Wittenberg-Birnamwood, 246-191, in the stepladder title match.

In boys’ singles, Koback 734 and 649 sets in qualifying and semis to earn the top seed for the stepladder finals. Fifth-seeded Dalton Zeman of Sheboygan Lutheran earned a stepladder berth with a 200-184 one-game rolloff over Burlington’s Joseph Leonard after tying with a 1,305 six-game total after the semis.

Zeman started the stepladder by downing fourth seed Aiden Scott of Portage, 245-220, before defeating third-seeded Grant Praslowicz of Antigo, 210-189.Second seed Zachary Olson of Neenah then edged Zeman, 219-217, for a spot in the title match. In the championship match, Koback prevailed, 209-184, to win the singles crown.

Full tournament results are available on the High School Bowling page of the BCAW website:

High School Bowling Club – Bowling Centers Association of Wisconsin (bowlwi.com)

The BCAW extends a tremendous thank you to Matt and Ryan Orvis, proprietors of The Ashwaubenon Bowling Alley, for hosting the event. Sponsors of the event included Bobs’ Business, QubicaAMF and Storm Products. H5G is the official apparel provider.

A total of 345 teams (boys’/co-ed varsity, girls’ varsity and junior varsity) across the state competed in the BCAW High School Bowling Club during the 2023-24 BCAW high school season, an 18 percent increase over last season.

Special kudos go out to Storm’s GG Mason, who was very generous with her time autographing bowling pins and programs, being part of the Storm Q/A and raffle, and joined the BowlStream TV crew on air.

BCAW appreciates the Wisconsin State USBC for providing the Phil A. LaPorte Scholarships totaling $3,000 to our top five singles finalists. BCAW awarded $2,000 in team scholarships.