It’s four years straight for Rootstown bowlers at the state tournament.
Fans talk about the teams that are consistently at the championship as the powerhouses of the sport.
The Rover boys are quickly gaining that status.
Beginning with Josh Flachbart in 2019 through this season, the Rover boys have qualified either individuals or the entire team to the state tournament in Columbus.
Following Drake Mason in 2020 and the entire boys team in 2021, the Rootstown varsity boys are again at the state dance on Friday looking to improve on their 14th place finish the previous season.
Thom Butcher, in his third season as the Rovers' mentor, said current teammates Logan Furry, a senior, and junior Nick Neiswanger were members of that 2021 state-qualifying team.
“We are at the state tournament, the pressure is off,” said Butcher about his team that won the Portage Trail Conference championship and is competing in the Division II state tournament.
The team includes three seniors (Bartholomy, Furry and Stephen Corley), four juniors (Neiswanger, Carson Flowers, Mark Oyster and Dylan Noll) and one freshman (Sean Boveington).
“I have been letting Nick and Logan talk to the team about what state was like last year,” said Butcher. “Logan is becoming a leader this year and he also talked to his best friend, Mason Bartholomy, to join the team this year as a senior.”
Bartholomy has been known for his expertise on the golf course and the baseball diamond.
“I was always in the off-season ready for baseball,” said Bartholomy. “Logan had begged me for the last three years to join the bowling team. It’s my senior year, so I joined.”
Previously, Bartholomy had bowled about five times a year.
“I didn’t know what team bowling was like or what a Baker game was, but I believe sports are 90 percent mental and 10 percent game. The will came along with it.”
Bartholomy rolled a 722 series at the district tournament to help the Rovers qualify for the state championship.
“I have had my teammates to help me through this season,” said Bartholomy. “And my coach to help with the fundamentals the correct way.”
However, as Bartholomy said, “if it works, it works."
“I love each sport the same and try to remember to just bowl like it is a normal day in the tournament.
“Our team really feeds off each other, we get through the ups and downs together,” said Bartholomy. “Our entire team is very excited to be going to state. We would like to finish better than they did last year.”
And that is Coach Butcher’s goal as well.
“I would like the team to finish in the top eight and advance to the championship round,” said Butcher. He is confident they can do that with his current lineup.
In addition to the leadership of Furry and the abilities of Bartholomy, the team includes Neiswanger who already tossed a 300 game this season and is averaging 212.
“Nick has continued to improve every year,” said Butcher of his junior. “He works hard all summer and is invested in bowling.
“Carson Flowers is one of those guys you root for,” said Butcher. “He has played sports his whole life and now, in bowling, he excels. Carson is a hard worker and a great teammate and has improved his average by more than 80 pins over the last two years. He is a joy to have on the team.”
The final member of the top five that advanced the team to the state is Boveington, the freshman.
“Sean has delivered this season,” said Butcher. “He had a little lull mid-season but we are working with him and he understands everything we are telling him.
“These are a great group of guys and are best friends,” said Butcher. “They pick each other up. The three additional bowlers [Oyster, Knoll and Corley] on our roster have come up big in Baker games for us.”
Most important, Butcher said the big egos are not present on this team.
Andy Day, Rootstown's girls coach, and Bryan Boveington, who coaches the boys junior varsity squad, have helped to make the team even better this year, said Butcher, who said the key to the tournament is adaptability.
“The team can practice on the shot and it still may be completely different when we get to the tournament. We need to figure out how to get the shot to the pocket,” said Butcher. “Relax and focus on the basics.”
The tournament will be held at Wayne Webb’s Columbus Bowl, 3224 S. High St. The doors open at 9 a.m. with the qualifying round of three games and three Baker games beginning at 10:45 a.m. The top eight teams continue to the bracketed championship round of Baker games to determine the team champion.
Tickets are available online at www.ohsaa.org/tickets.
This article originally appeared on Record-Courier: Rootstown Rovers bowling will compete in OHSAA state championhip