COLUMBUS — The Versailles boys and girls varsity bowling team traveled to the 64 Lane Palace Lanes in Columbus on Saturday to compete in the Ohio Invitational Kickoff Classic.
This is the largest high school bowling team tournament in the United States. They were competing with the best teams in the state of Ohio based on last year’s achievements. There were 31 boys teams and 28 girls teams competing.
The format was three games of regular bowling and two baker games. Then each division was cut to the top 16 teams based on total pinfall.
Both the Versailles boys and girls teams made the cut after the qualifying rounds, which started at 1 p.m.
The boys were in fifth place out of 31 teams. Out of the 16 teams that made the cut for the boys, there were only three or four teams that were Division II schools, the rest were Division I. This is the first year in the Ohio High School Athletic Association that bowling has been two divisions (although this tourney did not matter as they were all grouped together).
After the break, the match play finals were the top 16 teams with No. 1 seed bowling No. 16 seed, etc. The format was the best three out of five baker games.
“I really felt going in that the guys had a great chance to win this for the first time ever,” Versailles coach Doug Davidson said. “They proved themselves by qualifying fifth out of 31 teams against some of the best teams in the state. With our baker average being 192 for the season, all we needed to do was bowl like we had been all year. Unfortunately, the wheels fell off and we posted the three worst baker games of our season. Austintown Fitch did not beat us; we beat ourselves.”
The boys were led by Michael Davidson with a 674 series and Ben Ahrens with a 614 series. Davidson also finished second out of the 155 boys and made the all-tournament team. Kyle Condrick from Austintown Fitch finished first with a 682 series.
With the Versailles girls finishing in third place at this tournament last year, they were looking to improve this year. Their goal from the start of the tournament was to bring home the championship.
The girls started out with a nice score of 854 for the first game. The second game they caught fire and rolled a 1,011 with a 256 by Megan Monnin and a 200 by Kelsey Berning.
As the lanes changed a little bit, they struggled a bit but still ended up rolling a respectable 814 with a 219 from Brooke Wehrkamp. The team rolled a 213 and a 183 in the two baker games.
After all of the scores were tallied, Coldwater was seeded No. 1, and Versailles was seeded No. 2. This could not be drawn up any better because the two West Ohio High School Bowling Conference teams would not face each other until the finals if they both kept winning their head-to-head matches.
Before the bowlers got to the match play, Megan Monnin and Brooke Wehrkamp made the all-tournament team for the girls division, both with a 599 series. They tied for sixth place.
The first round of the bakers games, the Lady Tigers bowled Nordonia and were well in control by winning the first two games. However, Nordonia took the next two to force a fifth game.
“I think with the weaker Nordonia team coming back to force a fifth, it was a wakeup call to the girls,” Versailles coach Tyler Phlipot said. “Anything can happen in the baker games.”
The girls did not want to go home and ended up moving to the next round. Their focus the next two matches was a bit different and won the round of eight and the round of four both in three games over Division I Centerville and Beavercreek.
The third game, anchor bowler Brooke Wehrkamp needed to roll a strike to force a ninth and 10th frame roll off. She buried it and all 10 went in the pit. Wehrkamp had the hot hand so she bowled the ninth and 10th frame rolloff against their anchor bowler.
“This right here is what it is all about. I know you are nervous but just take a couple extra deep breathes and block everything else out of your head and just make four good shots,” coach Davidson said.
Wehrkamp did just that and rolled four absolutely perfect shots for strikes to seal the deal for the Tigers.
“This is what I love about this team,” Phlipot said. “There are many girls that we can put in the anchor position. It just depends on who has the hot hand at the time.”
As a lot of people expected, it was yet another showdown between the Lady Tigers and the Lady Cavaliers of Coldwater. The last two times the girls faced each other, each of them prevailed in one with Versailles winning the WOHSBC title and Coldwater defeating Versailles at the state championships and then eventually moved on to repeat as state champions.
“I really feel that the Versailles and Coldwater girls have the best two teams in the state,” coach Davidson said. “On any given day, either team can beat the other. When it comes to head-to-head baker games, it really boils down to filling frames and not giving the other team any momentum.”
Coldwater started the bakers by winning the first two games 191-150 and 212-176. The second game, it looked as if the Tigers were going to win as Coldwater opened the first three frames. However, they proceeded to roll five straight strikes.
“This shows right here why they are back-to-back state champs,” coach Phlipot said. “You can never count them out of a game until it is mathematically impossible.”
The third game the Tigers was not to be denied another game as they started with the first five strikes. However, they tried to let the Cavs back in as they missed three easy single pin spares at the end of the game. (203-164).
The fourth game was anybody’s game going into the ninth and 10th frames. Coldwater ended up winning the fourth game by a narrow margin of 185-180 to win championship.
“Anytime these two teams face each other, you can expect a good match, and that is what happened again,” coach Davidson said. “Our girls fought as hard as they could tonight after the long and grueling eight-hour tournament.”