Lofty goals: Falcons have handled high expectations in return trip to state


WILMINGTON —The Clinton-Massie boys bowling team set a high goal this season of returning to the state bowling tournament and placing better than last season’s eighth place finish.

They’ve cast aside the pressure and are on the right path to achieve that goal.

“The kids put that little extra pressure on themselves,” CM coach Tyler Hayslip said. “If we didn’t go to state, none of the other accolades would matter.”

The Falcons begin competition 10:45 a.m. Friday in the OHSAA Division II Boys Bowling Championship tournament at HP Lanes in Columbus.

While the bowlers were clear in their expectations for the season, Hayslip established a few “stepping stone” points to allow them to maintain focus throughout the entire season, which can be filled with many mundane nuances that can alter a team’s direction.

“Setting short-term goals, every practice, every tournament,” he said.

And be assured, Hayslip, deep down, knew his team had more than enough talent to make it back to back state appearances. Sometimes, though, the mental grind can be overwhelming and he didn’t want that to be a burden.

The bowlers realized the same thing. They were hungry to get back and more than prepared to fend off those mental challenges that could sidetrack a season.

“At the beginning of the season, we all knew we had the talent to make it to state,” said Brandon Moritz, the 2023 SBAAC American Division bowler of the year. “It was whether or not we were going to be committed to it. (I) Guarantee we were. These guys put in a lot of hard work, always here (at practice at Royal Z Lanes) early, always ready to go. I feel like if we didn’t make it to state it would have been a huge disappointment.”

Hard to say a league championship, sectional championship, district qualifying season could be a failure but it would have been had the Falcons been at home this weekend preparing for the spring sports season.

“Without getting to Columbus, I doubt in my mind that there would’ve been any success in it,” said Mason Keck, who was the individual state runnerup last season.

Cooper Huddleson said the season would absolutely have been a failure had the Falcons not made state. The team lost just one bowler to graduation (Gavan Hunter) from the last year’s state team and, as Huddleson put it, “Wyatt (Smith) fills that spot perfectly.”

For some, the pressure of the state tournament is not going to be the biggest hurdle of the season.

For Sam Massie, the weight of the state tournament will be nothing compared to an early season contest against powerhouse Centerville.

In a roll-off situation against the Elks earlier this season, Massie was selected by coach Tyler Hayslip to represent the Falcons in a three-frame winner-take-all confrontation. After a knee-shaking first frame, Massie came back with two strikes and won the roll-off, he said.

“The pressure we experienced against Centerville was much more drastic than state,” said Massie. “We came into state (last year) as ‘We made it and let’s just have fun’, which we did and exceeded our own expectations.

“But we had lost to Centerville the previous year by a couple pins and we said that we would come back better than ever and beat them. So having to go into a roll-off against a D1 national-ranked bowling team (and) to beat them it was a lot of pressure.

“I have dealt with pressure since I was in middle school from sports, grades and even friends and family. So it almost comes as a usual thing I deal with. But if I do get stressed or pressured, I step back and get a ice cold water to cool me off and reset my mind.”


WE GOT THIS: Sam Massie believes his teammates are more than ready for the challenge of the state tournament.

“With our mindset and team chemistry, we are practically unstoppable if we are on our game so we will have to see how everything plays out,” he said.

BODY AND MIND: At this time of season, most bowlers in the state tournament are battling physical and mental fatigue. Those who can muster enough strength of mind and body when they step on the approach for their turn are the ones who will succeed.

Which is the bigger test come Friday? Opinions vary.

“We had a (stretch) this season where a few bowlers had come to matches and tournaments with sickness or the flu and (still) had to perform at the top level,” Massie said of the physical challenges.

On the mental side, he said, “It also comes down to how calm you can remain and don’t worry too much. We have to stay in our mindset and don’t let the other bowlers mess us up or throw us off our game.”

Cooper Huddleson believes mastering the mental side of things is the key.

“Just being able to focus on your shot and making sure you hit your mark … is really key,” he said.

Mason Keck, Division II state runnerup in 2023, said being mentally fit now is most important. “You need to have your head clear,” he said.

Regardless of which side of that fence you stand on, Brandon Moritz said the Falcons can handle it.

“Mentally, we’re all there, everyone is striving and dedicated to this,” he said. “Physically, as a team, we do really well when we bowl back to back to back … consecutive days is what our goal is this week. We plan to bowl Monday through Friday this week.”

And then hopefully celebrate on Saturday.

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