Freeburg senior Tyler Hunter made sure his final high school bowling tournament was one to remember Saturday at St. Clair Bowl.
Making his third trip to the IHSA’s state bowling tournament, Hunter averaged 218.1 for 12 games over the two-day tournament as he clinched all-state status with an 11th-place finish
On a day when many of the top bowlers struggled with the tricky oil pattern on the lanes, Hunter remained consistent, putting up series of 679 and 610 to finish with 2,617 pins. That total was 98 pins less than state champion Nick Sommer, of Rockton Hononegah, who finished with a total of 2,715 as he led the Indians to the team championship.
Hunter became the first Freeburg bowler to earn a state medal last year when he placed seventh.
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“That was the goal for me this weekend. After placing seventh here last year, I was hoping to finish in the top 12 again and with it being a tough shot, I’m pleased with placing 11th,” Hunter said. “I’m going to bowl in college next year, and I’m looking at a couple of schools. It just depends on who offers the better scholarship.”
Belleville West senior Sam Watson was right behind Hunter, nabbing the final all-state medal. Watson, who averaged 217.9, finished with 2,615 pins to place 12th.
In one of the most competitive final rounds in state history, the 12 medal winners were separated by only 100 pins, and Sommer rallied late to win the individual crown. Chasing Alec Buchaas, of Lockport, and Alex Acosta, of Bolingbrook, for much of the first three rounds, Sommer had games of 237, 290 and 246 to finish with a final series of 773. Sommer beat Acosta (2,713) by two pins and Buchaas (2,692) by 23.
Watson was consistently in the top 10 all weekend. The Maroons’ standout finished strong with a 246 final game and 666 series.
“It was a grind. I bowled well for a game, then I wouldn’t do as well for a game or two. But overall I’m pleased with how I bowled,” Watson said. “The goal coming in was to make it to the second day, and when I did that and was in the top 10, I just was hoping nobody would bowl well enough to knock me out.”
Just missing a medal was O’Fallon’s Mark Hoerner in 15th. Other local bowlers turning in solid performances were O’Fallon’s Matthew Doyle (24th), Althoff’s John Leshikar (28th), Collinsville’s Major Douglas III (29th), Freeburg’s Connor Gaby (42nd) and Collinsville’s Elijah Hay (44th).
In the team race, there was no contest.
Holding a 200-plus-pin lead over O’Fallon heading into the final six games, Hononegah didn’t let up. The Indians increased their lead throughout the final two rounds.
Hononegah would finish with 12,611 pins, 420 more than former champion Freeport (12,191). Lincoln-Way Central grabbed the final trophy with 12,132 pins, nipping host O’Fallon (12,107) by just 25 pins. While the Panthers were denied a fifth trophy in seven years, coach Mike Imes did lead his team to a top-five finish for the seventh straight season.
“That’s something to be proud of. No other team has had seven straight top-five finishes,” Imes said. “To be honest about it, I’m a little shocked we missed third place by 25 pins. It’s much closer than I realized.
“We just were not consistent this weekend. It was a different pattern than what we had seen at state before.”
Collinsville finished 10th with 11,367 pins.