The 2022-23 high school bowling season is over, and an odd campaign it was for the Bulldogs and Lady Bulldogs. Not only did they have a new head coach in Austin Moreton, but their season was interrupted by two weeks of ice and snow just as they were preparing for the post-season. The wintry weather also pushed back the conference and state tournaments.
“We didn’t bowl for about two weeks,” said the coach. “They had to go on their own, if they were able to get out at all. So it hurt us in terms of practice time. We did cancel the Southside match because of the weather. Hackett actually cancelled on us too,” he added, leaving a gaping hole in the schedule the second half of January.
As a result, neither team was able to play after January 17th until the conference tournament in Hot Springs the second week of February. Yet both GHS teams were still able to qualify players for state competition in Jonesboro. The Lady Bulldogs qualified as a team, earning fifth place in the conference tournament, while two GHS boys qualified as individual competitors at state.
Last summer Coach Moreton learned that he would become the new head bowling coach with the departure of former head coach Chad Mercado. Both men were ably assisted by long-time volunteer Barbara Brown, who got the ball rolling (pun intended) back in late November and early December while Coach Moreton was still busy with football as the team’s offensive line coach. He had also served as assistant wrestling coach but has since passed those duties on to his younger brother, Hunter, who was hired last year as the defensive line coach for the Bulldogs.
The elder Moreton readily admits that his knowledge of the game was limited to his own personal experience as an occasional bowler, so his first season leading the GHS program was filled with much learning and growth, tutored by Coach Brown and his veteran players. The GHS roster included seven girls and 10 boys, among them nine seniors.
“Barbara Brown does a great job getting the ladies out,” said Coach Moreton. “The majority of those ladies are from our volleyball team, and for the guys, I think we were up in number this year. We had three young men come out late for bowling, but they couldn’t participate because it was too late in the season. Those three will definitely help us next year for sure,” he added.
“Our whole girls team qualified for state – they got fifth in conference,” said Moreton. “For the boys, Jason Sokolowski and William Hutchinson both qualified for state.” Sokolowski is a senior and Hutchinson a sophomore. “Out of 22 teams in [Class] 5A, [our girls] finished tenth,” explained the coach.
“We saw a great amount of improvement,” said Moreton when asked to characterize their season. “Obviously the younger bowlers progressed [the most] throughout the season.” Greenwood played all but one of its matches at Bowling World in Fort Smith, allowing players to get more accustomed to lane conditions and make better adjustments. They did play one match against Fort Smith Northside at Midland Lanes in the River City.
Altogether, the Bulldogs and Lady Bulldogs played in one early tournament and only about half-a-dozen regular season matches due to the bad weather that forced the cancellation of a couple matches in late January. They participated in the War Eagle Challenge in Lowell, Arkansas on November 30th last year, then also competed against such area teams as Van Buren, Alma (twice), Lamar (twice), and Hackett, along with Ft. Smith Northside and Southside. The conference tournament originally set for February 8th was also pushed back because of weather, as was the state tournament in Jonesboro.
With Coach Moreton still immersed in his football duties through early December, Coach Barbara Brown took the lead at the start of bowling season, said Moreton. After the Lowell tournament, Greenwood then defeated Alma both times, beat Van Buren and split two matches against Lamar, defeated Hackett, then lost to both Fort Smith schools, finishing 5-3 on the season.
As for the top bowlers on the two squads, Coach Moreton provided the season scoring averages for each player. Four of the seven varsity bowlers for the boys averaged better than 150 for the season, while four of the six GHS varsity girls averaged better than 125. Senior Aden Thorman was Greenwood’s top male bowler while senior Lilly Williams was the top spinner for the Lady Bulldogs.
Thorman averaged 173 pins throughout the season, followed by senior Jason Sokolowski (163), sophomore William Hutcherson (163), junior Ben Bryan (155), sophomore Jackson Wagner (138), senior Hayden Webb (130), and sophomore Nathan Garvin (118). Four of those seven players should return next season with a chance to improve their scores greatly with more experience. Sokolowski and Hutcherson both bowled above 200 in the conference tournament.
According to Moreton, Sokolowski was one of the team leaders and qualified for state as the sixth best bowler in the conference tournament. Aden Thorman was a four-year veteran of the team, starting as a freshman, and was essentially the team captain and had the squad’s highest season average. Ben Bryan showed consistency all season and will be counted on heavily during his senior year, said his coach. Nathan Garvin was a good practice player that worked his way into the varsity lineup during the season and has potential to do much more in the future.
William Hutchinson was one of the team’s best competitors, finishing seventh in the conference tournament, just one pin behind Sokolowski, also qualifying for the state tournament. Jackson Wagoner also made the starting lineup and showed good consistency. Hayden Webb was an offensive lineman on the football team who came out for bowling for the first time and showed great improvement with more practice and experience, said his coach from both sports. Other Bulldogs on the junior varsity included sophomore Isaiah Dollarhyde, freshman James Rowe, and junior Cade Thorman.
For the ladies, Lilly Williams led the way with a season average of 130, just one pin ahead of fellow senior Madelyn Cassat at 129. Senior Riley Golden had a 128 average and senior Sara Dungan rolled a 125 average for the season. Sophomore Brianna Wilson wasn’t far behind at 120, and sophomore Rylee Daniel rolled an even 100. All but Wilson and Daniel will graduate this spring, so the coaching staff will need to do some recruiting to fill the open slots for next season.
“The funny thing about the girls was that they would all take turns leading,” said Coach Moreton. “All the girls were varsity players.” All five seniors – Cassat, Dungan, Golden, Luke, and Williams – were key contributors throughout the season, and all five were also volleyball players, including Riley Golden, the daughter of GHS head volleyball coach Jennifer Golden. Brianna Wilson and Rylee Daniel both showed promise and should move into leadership roles next season as returning juniors. “Them finishing fifth in conference and qualifying for state was big for us,” said Moreton.