The MHSAA State Bowling Championships took place over the weekend, and the West Michigan schools had some tremendous success. A recap of those events, as well as interviews with the coaches of the two champions below.
Boys Team Championships
In Division 1 boys play, Grand Haven (11th) and Rockford (12th) missed the 8-team bracket portion of the playoffs. Salem was crowned the eventual State Champion.
Four West Michigan teams were in the Division 2 boys finals, and two qualified for the bracket. Although Byron Center (11th) and Wyoming (12th) failed to make the bracket, Kenowa Hills and Northview advanced. The 6-Seed Knights and 8-seed Wildcats each lost their opening matches, with Kenowa Hills falling against eventual State Champion Dearborn Divine Child.
The lone West Michigan team in Division 3, Belding, qualified for the bracket as a 6-seed. They lost their opening match. Grass Lake took home the State Championship.
In Division 4, Western Michigan Christian qualified for the bracket as a 6-seed. They lost to Kalamazoo Hackett in the first round of bracket play. St Charles captured a State Championship.
Girls Team Championships
West Michigan’s lone State Championship in the team tournaments came in Division 1. The Hudsonville Eagles were the 3-seed, and they took down Midland in the first round 1189-1101. They advanced to the finals after beating Davison 1335-1250. In the title game, they beat Belleville (who took down Zeeland in the opening round) 1149-1122. Although they lost the Bakers 301-297, they picked up the slack in the individual games. Makenna Hendrickson led the way with 194 pins, while Morgan Blouw scored a 181.
Division 2 saw four teams qualify for the state finals, but only two made the bracket. Allegan (9th) and Byron Center (10th) each missed out, but Northview and Whitehall advanced. The 4-seed Wildcats lost their first match, while 6-seed Whitehall beat Tecumseh before falling in the semifinals. Flint Kearsley captured the State Championship for the sixth time in seven years, and the eighth time in ten tries.
Kent City and Unity Christian were the lone West Michigan teams in the Division 3 finals, and they made the bracket as six and seventh seeds respectively. Both teams were unable to advance past the opening round, as the ‘Saders lost to eventual State Champion Birch Run.
In Division 4, Ravenna qualified for the bracket as a 5-seed. They lost in the first round. Traverse City Christian went on to capture the State Championship.
Boys Individual Championships
In Division 1, Carson Hommes (FHN), Brantley Wicks (Grand Haven) and Jermiah Swain (Hudsonville) emerged from the 60-bowler qualifying to make the 16-player bracket. Swain was the lone bowler to win a first-round match, topping Hommes 367-338 before losing in the quarterfinals.
Division 2 saw five bowlers reach the 16-player bracket: Lucas Buck (Kenowa Hills), Zeke Dykstra (Kenowa Hills), Kyle Pranger (Northview), Adam Coval (Byron Center) and Jerry LaRue (GR Christian). Pranger was the lone player who advanced out of the first round, and the Northview sophomore reeled off four consecutive wins to capture the State Championship. In the final match, he beat Damein Milliman (Jackson NW) 416-389.
In Division 3, two West Michigan bowlers qualified for the bracket. Trent Beerman (Orchard View) lost his first match, while Trenton Altman (Belding) cruised to the State Championships. In the title match, the junior lost to Jacob Johnson (Livonia Clarenceville) 396-373.
Cole Crabtree was the only Division 4 boys bowler from West Michigan to reach the bracket. The 15-seed lost in the first round.
Girls Individual Championships
Morgan Smith (Zeeland) and Alexis Thompson (Grand Haven) advanced to the 16-player bracket in Division 1. Smith captured a first-round victory before losing to eventual State runner-up Ava Crumley (South Lyon) 415-335.
There were three girls in the 16-player bracket of Division 2 from West Michigan. Kadence Bottrall (Wayland), Karli VanDuinen (Whitehall) and Bella Harnish (Wayland) all qualified for the bracket. VanDuinen was the only girl to capture a first-round victory, though she lost to eventual State runner-up Allison Robbins (Flint Kearsley) 481-406.
Lauren VanderMaas (Unity Christian) and Arabella Huntoon (Central Montcalm) each qualified for the Division 3 bracket. They squared off in the first round, and Huntoon won 372-335. Huntoon would go on to win another match before losing in the quarterfinals to eventual State runner-up Bridget Ryon (Corunna) 420-308.
Heidi Kloostra of Ravenna was the only girl in Division 4 to qualify for the bracket from our coverage area. She lost in the opening round.
Hudsonville Girls Head Coach Casey Schichtel
“After starting the game with 10 splits through the first 5 frames and falling behind by over 100 pins, they could have folded and said “Runner Up” is good enough. This was not how this team handled situations like this throughout the season. We had been in the same situation in regionals with one game to play and they came back to make it to state. Leadoff bowler Ciara DeJongh got us going in the 6th frame with a strike. Our motto of “strikes are contagious” happened with every girl rolling a strike in the 6th frame. I’m so proud of how they battled back against Belleville when facing that big deficit. Belleville had a lot of great bowlers with Sydney and Asia having the potential to strike out to beat us. I wasn’t able to relax until the 4th bowler in the last frame. As soon as I knew it was over, tears of joy flowed from my eyes and all of our bowlers!”
Given all of the uncertainty COVID has brought into the sports world, Schichtel said it added a little extra reward to this State Championship. “It’s been a tough year dealing with Covid and the possibility of our girls getting contact traced daily. It means so much because there was a very real possibility that the state finals could have been canceled. I am proud of the girls for how they performed under pressure all day bowling a total of 19 games. Winning a state championship is an amazing accomplishment for the girls but winning it with the extra obstacles they had to face this year makes it even sweeter!”
Makenna Hendrickson served as the anchor on this team as it’s lone senior. “Makenna was a true anchor bowler. She was our only senior on the team and showed her leadership both on and off the lanes on Friday. Our bowlers could have gotten frustrated after opening frames and given up, but Makenna helped everyone maintain their composure and stay calm. If we were having a bad frame, Makenna ended the frame on a strike more times than not to get us going into the next frame on a positive note.”
Schichtel felt that he knew this team could win the State Championship early on. “Zeeland was the defending State Champion and was a great team this year. We both practice each day at Hudsonville Lanes, so I was able to see how good they are. We only had one tournament this year (Hudsonville Invitational). When we defeated Zeeland for the tournament championship, I knew we had a special team that could take on anyone.”
Hudsonville, known for its success in a variety of sports, had never experienced a Girls Bowling State Championship. When asked about what it means to deliver the trophy to the community and school district, Schichtel said “The Hudsonville community is very supportive of our Eagle athletes. The bowling parents do whatever it takes to help their kid succeed. Doug Boomsma, owner of Hudsonville Lanes, gave us all the opportunities we needed to be successful as well. Some teams were only able to practice one time per week this year due to Covid whereas we were able to practice four times a week. I’m so proud of the girls to see all their hard work payoff to win the state title.”
The Eagles become the third straight Girls Division 1 Team Champions, following Jenison (2019) and Zeeland (2020) Schichtel has been encouraged by this trend. “I have been coaching since 2003 and the East side has dominated girls bowling for many years. However, in the past few years, the West side has proven we belong. Having tournaments and matches against top level competition on our side of the state has definitely helped the girls deal with the pressure situations in the state tournament.”
Northview Coach Harold Klukowski
“Kyle is a sophomore, and his dad is one of our assistant coaches. Last year, he advanced to the semifinals, losing to the eventual State Champion (466-409). We had another bowler reach the State Finals last year, and he lost to the same guy (494-410). This weekend, he went into the State Finals with the mindset that he wanted to get to the finals and finish the job”.
Pranger got out to a slow start with a 162, but followed that up with 236-232. After a 160 and 183, he needed a really strong last game to qualify for the bracket. He posted a 235 which earned a 9-seed, below his expectation, but in the field nonetheless. “Kyle hit some really tough shots in the final game to get that 235.”
“He (Kyle) plays on the MJMA and other tour events, sometimes against the kids that he faced at the State Finals. He had a mindset of knowing what they were capable of, and what he would need to do to accomplish his goal of a State Championship”.
This was the first time that Northview claimed a bowling championship at the team or individual level. “We have qualified for team finals and had good individual bowlers, but we never had a dominant performance at the state level. Both teams have now made match play in the past two years, and bowlers have begun to make individual runs.”
Klukowski echoed Casey Schichtel regarding the west-side emergence. “The Division and Division 2 State Finals have been so dominated by the east-side, but the west-side is getting more competitive. In Division 2 boys individuals alone, we had five bowlers in the bracket play, including the State Champion.”