COLUMBUS — Don’t expect the Wadsworth boys bowling team to shrink under the lights when it heads to Wayne’s Webb Columbus Bowl to compete in the Division I state tournament.
The fact the Grizzlies are making their first appearance as a team should strike fear in even the best of teams.
That’s simply not the case with Wadsworth.
Brunswick’s Nate Barbopoulos will also compete as an individual.
“This year, we’ve all grown into one team,” reigning MVP Chris Steele of Wadsworth said. “We’ve had better communication. We all are smart bowlers. We all want each other to do well. It’ll be easier. Last year, it was just me at state. If I struggled, I didn’t have anyone to fall back on. This year, there’s comfort in knowing that if I falter a game or two, I have four amazing starters to help me out if I need the boost.”
Steele qualified for the state tournament as an individual last year so he knows what he’s talking about as the Grizzlies’ fab five have been making waves all season.
Should Steele (218.1 average, 726 high three-game series), Cooper Wrobel (208.5, 708), Eric Auffenberg (197.7, 715), Austin Wrobel (187.8, 632) and Randall Clark (177.8, 628) roll near their high three-game series and stick close to their averages, they could easily make the cut to the top eight.
Their score coming in is the ninth-best, but they’ve shown the wherewithal to get things done when it counts.
“As a coach, watching these guys, I’m watching a team that can win a state championship,” Wadsworth coach George Steele said. “They know they’re going up against giants, but last year’s champion was Westerville Central. We bowled against them in the semifinals in the Muskingum Invitational and we beat them.
“These guys know we can beat teams that have won state championships. It’s just a different feel. Practice this week has been different this week. Their confidence isn’t over the top, but it’s where it needs to be. It’s crazy.”
When George Steele has needed his team the most, the Grizzlies have come through every time. The roll they are on has not only brought confidence, it has gotten the attention from the biggest teams in the state.
It all started when they won the Suburban League Tournament by 108 pins over Stow and continued at the Stark County Sectional where Wadsworth won by 98 pins over Canton GlenOak.
Two weeks ago, the Grizzlies walked into the Northeast District and knocked off Austintown-Fitch by 109 pins.
Cooper Wrobel has led the team in scoring in the postseason and was eight pins off of Auffenberg for the lead at the SLT.
“The fact we’re rolling good is great,” Cooper Wrobel said. “Hopefully, we don’t get too up on ourselves and we’re not bowling to make the cut, we’re just bowling to bowl. The whole point of Bakers is you have the team behind you. If you don’t fill up your frame, it gives you confidence that someone can cover you up and you can do better the next time.”
Kolony Bowl, where Wadsworth rolls, has been kind enough to put down the oil pattern the state will use for the Grizzlies and they’ve been putting up incredible numbers.
“They’re blowing the house away during practice,” George Steele said. “They’re putting the state shot out for us at Kolony Bowl and they’re annihilating pins. It’s great to watch, but there’s no sense of urgency.
“If you would have asked me last year what our expectations were after district, it would be to place well. Now, they’ve won sectional, they’ve won district, they’ve won the Suburban League Tournament and it’s the same feel. They’re in a position where I think they know they have a chance. They just have to do it.”
Contact Brad Bournival at email@example.com.