If everything comes together for the Olmsted Falls boys like it did at the district tournament, it could be quite a fantastic finish for the Bulldogs at the Division I state bowling championships Friday in Columbus.
The Bulldogs have depth — they used all eight players to pull out the district championship Feb. 24 at Akron’s Riviera Lanes.
Olmsted Falls held on to defeat defending state champ Canfield by 19 pins, 3,996-3,977.
Olmsted Falls should be right up there with the lead pack in Columbus. Every player in the varsity lineup averages 190 or better.
The Bulldogs enter the state tournament as the No. 6 seed in the 16-team field. They need to be in the top eight coming out of Friday’s qualifying round for a shot at the title in the championship round.
“You have to stay hot,” Olmsted Falls coach Chuck Carver said. “You can’t let a couple of bad shots ruin your day. We kept them focused at districts on what they had coming instead of focusing on the bad shot they left behind. You have to let that shot go. Once it’s out of your hands there’s nothing that you can do about it. You have to move on and keep going the rest of the day.”
The format for the championship round is a best-of-5 Baker single elimination format.
“The Baker games are what really count in the end,” senior Dan McFadden said. “We pulled all three of our subs into our last Baker (at districts). If they weren’t able to come in and hit their mark from the get-go, in some situations we might not otherwise make a qualifying spot. The fact that everyone on the team gets along together so well helps us to make those switches and transitions throughout the day.
“There’s not one bowler on the team that I wouldn’t trust to bowl for us at any tournament.”
The Bulldogs transitioned well this season when assistant Carver was promoted, replacing 43-year veteran Craig Barbee, who first started the program.
“Most of the time Coach Carver would be down there on the lane helping us with making adjustments,” McFadden said. “When he became coach this season, he filled right in. We were all comfortable with it.”
Olmsted Falls has great frontline strength, too.
Senior Paul Katz had the overall No. 1 series at the Akron district with 673, winning the title by one pin over Mayfield sophomore Josh Mace. Junior Andrew Oltmanns was No. 8 with 616. The two lead the Bulldogs for average, each with 200.
“Friday will be a good day as long as we bowl to the best of our potential,” McFadden said. “Whether it’s a good day or bad day, as long we put everything we have into it, we’ll have nothing to be upset about whether we win or not.”
McFadden (23rd, 578), Jake Olszewski (41st, 537) and Chad Kuchenmeister (59th, 507) also bowled well at Akron.
“Our coaching staff makes all the difference,” Kuchenmeister said. “We all had the same ideas last Saturday, but they really helped us out. They were watching us and knew where the lanes were breaking down at. That’s especially important when you get to the fourth or fifth Baker.”
Making its sixth straight district appearance, Olmsted Falls led Canfield by 76 pins, 2,911-2,836, at Akron heading into the Baker. The Cardinals cut the deficit to 17 after Game 4 of the six-round Baker, but the Bulldogs were able to hang on.
“We should never have our heads down because we’re not the only ones out there struggling,” Kuchenmeister said. “This group of seniors is special. We missed going to state by eight pins when we were freshmen. Ever since then we knew we weren’t graduating without making at least one run to state. We jumped out the gates at districts, we knew that we weren’t looking back now. We’re taking the title.”
Kuchenmeister’s father, Eric, is a team assistant. His brother, Colin, a sophomore, is also a member of the team.
Last year, Olmsted Falls finished 20th out of 28 teams in the Northeast district tournament at Warren. The Bulldogs likely weren’t on the radar of many teams from outside the district early this season, but they are now.
“The team has matured a lot this year as far as bowling more as a team instead of individuals,” Carver said. ‘That’s been one of the biggest changes in the kids. The preparation we’ve put in as far as practicing on sports patterns more versus a house shot has been a big deal. And even though we’ve made it, I’ve still not had all my kids clicking at the same time. If I can get at least three to four clicking at the same time and shooting in the 600s, I think we have a shot at winning this thing.”
Olmsted Falls finished second at the Lorain County Division I sectional to Brunswick, 4,321-4,101, to advance to the district tournament.
“Our game plan is basically the same,” Carver said. “We have to cover our spares and get a couple guys hitting for strikes. But the biggest thing I’ve preached all season long is our spare shooting. It’s especially important in this (qualifying) format at state. Spares are going to get you there.
“You throw the strikes when you get into the top eight, that’s when you throw the strikes to win it. To get there you have to make your spares. Our spare shooting for sectionals and districts has gotten us on the path where we need to be.”
In addition to defending champ Canfield, 2013 state runner-up Kettering Fairmont returns to this year’s state field. The Firebirds have the highest score coming out of districts with a 4,444 pin total.
“The oil pattern for state is not the same as it was for sectionals and districts,” Carver said. “It’s not a whole lot different. There’s little more volume in the middle of the lane, but it’s not laid out quite as wide. We’ve practiced on it a couple times this week at practice.”