Carlynton boys bowlers have winning formula
By: Chuck Curti
Thursday, January 3, 2019 | 10:09 PM
Winning normally produces a loose, stress-free atmosphere around a team. But what if it worked the other way around? What if creating a happy-go-lucky environment bred winning?
That’s the formula the Carlynton boys bowling team has used to make it through its first four matches undefeated. The run included a down-to-the-wire win over perennial power Central Catholic.
The bowling program at Carlynton, coach Dave Kuhn said, was an on-again, off-again proposition for many years. Kuhn is in his second season with the Cougars, and the team, he said, is in its seventh consecutive in the WPIBL.
This season could turn out to be its most prosperous. Senior captain Gabe Prepelka can take a good bit of the credit for that. Yes, he is among the WPIBL’s top bowlers with a 213 average, but his work as the team’s “PR agent” played an important a role.
“Back when I started as a freshman, we didn’t really have too many kids on the team,” said Prepelka, who also captained the soccer team. “The next year, I got all my buddies to come along. I kind of advertised it around the school … as a fun time to come and enjoy yourself.”
Said Kuhn: “It didn’t take me long to give Gabe the nod (as captain). He’ll bring everybody together over the offseason to bowl. He’s always the guy (at practice) first, getting everyone situated and ready to go.”
This year, the boys team has 20 participants. Many are untested underclassmen, but the core group is trying to bring them along and prepare them for the future.
Prepelka’s supporting cast includes seniors Sam Knable (170 average), Matt Hilarzewski (170) and Andrew Weimer (155) and junior Mason Small (167). Prepelka has the section’s high game (279) and high three-game series (759). Hilarzewski, in his first season with the team, has a 250 game to his credit.
In seasons past, with lower roster numbers, the focus would be on getting bowlers to the individual tournament — an average of 170 is required to qualify — but now the Cougars are thinking about team goals.
They are not consumed by them, however. They continue to focus on each match and having as much fun as possible.
Prepelka said other teams often seem intense and uptight during competition. The Cougars, meanwhile, crack jokes with each other and have little dances they will do after strikes — nothing over the top, just enough to keep the mood light.
As much fun as they like to have, the Cougars know when it’s time to get down to business. They can flip the switch.
“We don’t take it too seriously,” Prepelka said. “But we take it seriously when we need to get the job done. We’re able to have fun and enjoy ourselves yet still compete at a very high level.”
The girls team, meanwhile, has only six players — five-player teams compete in matches — and is 2-2. But they also are an integral part of the boys’ success.
“They just come out and enjoy it,” Kuhn said. “It’s almost like being out with your friends.”
Added Prepelka: “The girls all help with the mood. They’re easy to talk to. It makes it more like a group gathering and not so much like a sport.”
Sophomores Faith Aliano and Gwen Kalimon lead the girls team with averages near 104.
The regular season has another month to go before the Cougars can turn their attention to the WPIBL team and individual tournaments. Kuhn insisted the players are not thinking that far ahead. By the same token, they will be ready to compete when the time comes.
And ready to have a few laughs.
“They’re just playing their game,” Kuhn said. “It’s loose and locked in. They play within themselves and enjoy the ride.”
Chuck Curti is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chuck at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @CCurti_Trib.