Competing in the U.S. High School Bowling National Championships against the top prep bowlers in the nation, John Leshikar, of Shiloh, thought he'd compete well on the home lanes of St. Clair Bowl.
On Monday, Leshikar came within an eyelash of becoming the national champion.
A recent graduate of Althoff Catholic High School where he bowled for the Crusaders for four years, Leshikar held the lead for much of the qualifying rounds then fell to Quinn Sheehy, of Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, 199-180 in the boys title match.
"It's really a surreal feeling. I felt before the competition started on Sunday that there were a lot of bowlers who had a chance to win and that if I bowled well enough that I was one of them,'' Leshikar said. "To be able to get to the championship match, I'm pleased with how I finished. I bowled well.''
Sponsored by the United States High School Bowling Foundation, the event, held on the same lanes which annually host the IHSA Boys State Bowling Tournament, was the third annual U.S. High School Bowling National Championship.
The tournament began on Saturday with 72 teams — 46 boys and 26 girls — from 22 states competing. Sun Prairie took home the boys championship with Machesney Park Harlem defeating O'Fallon to win the girls title.
On Sunday, a field of 500 singles bowlers, 375 boys and 125 girls, began qualifying rounds. Competition continued throughout the day Sunday.
Leshikar held the lead through the round of 16 but stumbled in round of eight. With three open frames, Leshikar bowled a 176 and saw his 42-pin lead fade.
Leshikar, who throws the ball with two hands, said he changed equipment between the round-of-16 and round-of-eight games.
"Sometimes you feel that because of the lanes, that if you change of equipment that it might help you bowl better. It didn't work out for me this time,'' Leshikar said. "Fortunately, I was able to come back and bowl better in the next game to make the final match.''
Leshikar bowed a 235 to edge Bryce Frantz, of Seneca, Kentucky, and Calin Meeks, of Hardin County, Tennessee, for a berth in the final against Sheehy. Frantz finished with a 223 game, while Meeks shot a 216.
In the title match, Leshikar began with a strike then suffered an open frame when he missed the 7-pin.
Headed to Texas A&M University later this summer, Leshikar got even with consecutive strikes in the third and fourth frames before another open frame in the fifth gave Sheehy the lead for good.