TROY — When it comes to high school bowling, the Greater Western Ohio Conference is on a roll. Count the Troy Trojans as a striking success, too.
The website ohiohighschoolbowling.com’s high-game honor roll lists 14 perfect games of 300 (12 consecutive strikes). Troy has three of those, and all came from three different bowlers — Zach Brown, Erik Canan and Darin Hinkle. Toss in their bowling coaches — Rob Dever and Cevin Wagner have two each — and the Trojans have combined for seven 300 games. Canan also rolled a 299 this season, just missing on his 12th and final roll.
“I don’t know if there’s really an explanation other than we’ve been fortunate,” said Dever. “They’re good bowlers for one thing. You just have that day when you’re bowling good and you’re getting the breaks at the same time.”
For Brown, that was in the Trojans’ season opener back on Nov. 20.
“Around the ninth strike,” Brown said of when he started getting nervous. “I’ve had nine and 10 (strikes) in a row a couple of times. I’ve been close. I asked friends to help calm me down, tell me jokes to lighten it up so I didn’t think about it as much. … I don’t mind if people talk to me. But it would make me a little nervous if they came up to me and said, ‘Hey you have seven in a row.’ Oh, thanks. I didn’t notice. That would add to the nerves.”
Brown said he nearly lost his bid for perfection in the seventh frame. He hit the pocket a little high and left the No. 4 pin, but a messenger pin rolled around and took it down late.
“You can always throw the perfect ball and leave a corner pin or solid 8 or solid 9 on any given shot,” said Wagner. “I get as nervous as the bowlers do. I hope they bowl well, even if it’s a bowler on the other team. It’s exciting to see a 300 game. I know how difficult it is.”
The Trojans could have more 300 games in their future. The program is now booming with 30 bowlers. A junior varsity team was added, which most of the GWOC schools now have. That pool of talent could be bad news for teams around the state. At the state tournament last season, GWOC teams Beavercreek, Fairborn and Centerville swept the top three spots, while Troy finished sixth. On the boys side, Fairmont took third behind Midwest Athletic Conference powers Coldwater and St. Henry.
This season, Beavercreek, Centerville, Fairborn, Fairmont and Troy are a combined 38-7 in boys action and 37-5 in girls play.
“I think we have a lot of great coaches in the area,” Dever said of the GWOC’s success. “You can feel it and see it in the way the kids throw the ball. Especially with the girls, you can tell a difference in their style and aggressiveness.”
No GWOC girls have rolled up perfection yet, but Fairmont’s Sara Turpin leads the ohiohighschoolbowling.com’s girls honor with a 288. Miamisburg’s Michelle Durrant, another GWOC program, topped the list last year at 289.
Improving equipment could help. Bowling balls are harder these days making for better striking and pin action. And it’s common for bowlers to bring four or five bowling balls to matches to use with different lane types. Some balls work better on oily lanes and others on drier lanes. A plastic bowling ball that does not hook or curve is used to pick up spares.
Brown, meanwhile, uses equipment rarely seen in bowling: sneakers. He forgoes regular bowling shoes for his Nike’s.
“My style of bowling is a little bit out of the ordinary,” Brown said. “That prevents me from sliding, which cranker bowlers usually to do. They usually stand closer to the edge and play the big hook shot. I’ve actually scooted more toward the middle. I have a more direct shot to the pocket. It’s easier to control and makes me more consistent.”
Brown and the rest of the Trojans hope to keep adding to their 300 honor roll as well. Getting there once helps when that second time rolls around.
“It’s a great feeling, especially the first time you do it,” Dever said. “If you have a 200-plus average and you throw that first 300 game, you feel like you get that monkey off your back. Eventually if you’re a good bowler you’re going to get one. It feels good to finally get it.”