The state of the Saint Ignatius bowling program is excellent.
The Wildcats have welcomed seven new members, bringing the team total to 15 bowlers, the largest Saint Ignatius team in recent memory.
With a pair of veterans leading the team, the young Alley Cats will develop over the course of the year and be a team to contend with by season's end.
Head Coach Jim Viets is excited about his team this season, which starts on Saturday.
"We're young, but we have potential," Viets said. "With a lot of young guys, this will be a team effort. But we'll get better over the course of the season."
Two seniors on the team appear poised to lead the way – Vinny Doran and Alex Gehrlein. Doran starred for the Wildcats all of last season as a reliably sound bowler with great form. The Garfield Heights native will lead the way, scores-wise, averaging in the 190s early in the year and likely reaching the 200s down the stretch. Doran will be the team's star.
"Vinny will average 195 to start, likely 200 by the end of the year. If he has his game, makes the spares, he has a good shot to go to States," Viets said.
Gehrlein enters as the team's captain. The senior is a strong leader who has worked hard to become a solid kegler. The young members of the squad will look up to Gehrlein for assistance throughout the year. The Shaker Heights resident will play a critical role for the Wildcats.
Beyond the two seniors, the Wildcats have two juniors – Noah Virant and Alex Madeja. Each of the two has been performing well in early season practices. Virant, in particular, drew praise from Coach Viets for throwing the ball quite well in the early going.
Three sophomores will occupy spots on the varsity squad to start the season – Dylan Huss, Ryan Wallenhorst, and Ben Gehrlein. Huss and Wallenhorst each contributed as freshmen last season and will continue to be solid bowlers. Gehrlein joined the team this fall, following in the footsteps of his older brother, Alex. Look for Ben to roll scores in the 160s and 170s by the end of the season as he finds his groove.
On the JV squad, two sophomores will lead the way – Andrew Fornadel and Ronan Scott. Fornadel will act as the unofficial captain, grooming the ranks of the freshmen this season. Scott recently joined the squad and will look to improve over the course of the season.
A whopping six freshmen will be on the JV team this season – Mason Cook, Andrew Metz, Collin Schram, Alex Vacca, Gabe Virant, and Sean Ward. All six have promising futures.
"We'll have a solid JV team. With them bowling every week, you'll see their averages improve," said Viets. "Last year, we only had 8 kids, so we threw everyone on varsity. Some kids needed to bowl every week. They'll get a chance to get three games in and two baker games."
One unique aspect of bowling is the lack of experience many students have when trying out for the high school team. Some bring a little experience, but most have had no formal training in the sport.
"We just had a kid come out today. On his first day today, he was throwing the ball with backspin and taking three steps. In a matter of 20 minutes, we taught him the 5-step approach, throwing underhand and throwing decent," Viets said. "We try to mold these kids into proper footwork and proper mechanics. Instead of pumping the ball down into the ground, we work on getting the ball down the lane and watching the reaction of the ball. That's where the teaching will come in."
The Wildcats will begin the 2018-19 campaign on Saturday following several weeks of preparation. The Alley Cats have been practicing at Dickey Lanes in Ohio City off of West 25th, a bowling alley that opened in 1915 and has been run by the Dickey family since 1946. Chris Nagy, a former University of Akron bowler, has also stepped in to help as an assistant coach, joining DJ Assaff.
In addition, the Wildcats will meet with chaplain Ed DeVenney, a member of the school's campus ministry, weekly on Tuesdays. The Alley Cats have also been working on Tuesdays and Thursdays with Strength & Conditioning Coach Anthony Rubino.
"We get them a couple workouts during the week, so when we have tournaments with the potential of playing 15-20 games, the stamina is there," Viets said.
The regular season starts with a trip to the East side on Saturday to face Westlake at Rollhouse Wickliffe. The Wildcats will once again take part in the Greater Cleveland Interscholastic Bowling League (GCIBL), as one of the six members of the conference. The other teams are St. Edward, Lakewood, Olmsted Falls, and Garfield Heights. The Wildcats and Eagles will face off at Rollhouse Parma on November 24 and at Buckeye Lanes on December 22.
Along with weekly GCIBL play, the Wildcats are currently slated to host the 2nd Annual Wildcat Tournament on December 2 and participate in two other tournaments – the Nordonia Tournament on December 9 and the Padua Tournament on December 16. Coach Jim Viets is also looking to enter the Wildcats in a couple other tournaments later in the season.
For the Saint Ignatius tournament, Viets hopes to have close to 40 teams this season, following a great showing of squads last year, with both boys and girls teams. Opposing squads should contact the Athletic Department to register for the tournament.
Looking at the season, expect the Alley Cats to grow together over the course of the season. The Wildcats are young, but have a bright future. Click here for the full schedule, and make sure to support the Alley Cats this season!