Both Greenwood High School bowling teams qualified for state tournament play earlier this month, according to Head Coach Chad Mercado. Their season began after Thanksgiving last fall and resumed on January 11th following Christmas break, and both squads finished with winning records in the regular season before proceeding to post-season play.
The Bulldogs and Lady Bulldogs earned the right to compete at state based on their performances in their conference tournament originally set for the first week of February. But a winter storm forced officials to reschedule around the weather. On the 5A level the state was divided into two divisions, east and west. Besides Greenwood, other west teams included Alma, Benton, Hot Springs, Lake Hamilton, Hot Springs Lakeside, Little Rock Christian, Russellville, Siloam Springs, Texarkana, and Van Buren. The top five or six teams from each division qualified for state competition, both boys and girls.
Due to the earlier weather delay, the state tournament was pushed back to February 10th at Fast Lane in Lowell in Northwest Arkansas. After the last pin fell, the Bulldogs finished seventh overall while the Lady Bulldogs placed ninth. But the good news, at least for the boys, is that Mercado’s Bulldogs are young and he should have everyone back next season.
Prior to the holiday break in December, both GHS teams had done well against area competition. The Bulldogs were 3-2 while the Lady Bulldogs were 4-1. Those matches were held at Bowling World and Midland Bowl in Fort Smith against Fort Smith Southside, Alma, Hackett, Van Buren, and Lamar. Another round of competition against some of those same teams took place in January, all at Bowling World, with the GHS boys finishing their season at 6-3 and the girls at 7-2.
On January 11th both GHS teams defeated Alma at Bowling World. The Bulldogs won with a score of 2,166 to 1,957 for the Airedales, while the Lady Bulldogs won 1,554 to 1,070 for the Alma girls. Aiden Thorman rolled a 192 for the Bulldogs’ highest individual score and the boys combined for an outstanding Baker score of 211.
On the 13th Greenwood met both Hackett and Lamar at Bowling World, winning all three matches. The GHS boys scored a 2,108 to 1,662 for Hackett with no score available for Lamar. Aiden Thorman bowled a single game high of 205 and Kaleb Kennedy averaged 187 for the Bulldogs. The GHS girls won 1,635 to 1,428 over Hackett. Cassidy Childers bowled a high game of 184 to lead her teammates.
Nearly two weeks later, on January 25th, the two GHS squads took on Fort Smith Southside, again at Bowling World, and were bested by the Mavs and Lady Mavs, both of which finished in the top four at state in Class 6A. Cooper McCombs bowled a 196 game for the Bulldogs and Jason Sokolowski bowled a 201, but it wasn’t enough to offset the performance of an excellent Mavericks squad. The Southside boys won by nearly 300 pins, 2,491 to 2,193. The Lady Bulldogs lost to the Lady Mavs in similar fashion, 1,603 to 1,326.
Just two days later, on the 27th, the two GHS teams closed out their regular season schedule with a final match at Bowling World against Lamar. Kaleb Kennedy bowled a 207 and Aiden Thorman averaged 184 for the day. The Bulldogs won the match 2,158 to 1,987 for Lamar. The Lady Bulldogs won 1,670 to 1,584 with Cassidy Childers averaging 153 for the day.
Up next was the 5A West conference tournament in Rogers at the Family Bowling Center the second week of February, with qualifying teams advancing to the state tournament on the 10th. The Bulldogs finished third against conference competition and the girls finished fifth. Coach Mercado explained the format for the conference tournament.
“We bowled three matches and four Bakers,” he said. “So it’s a longer day.” Baker play features five different bowlers in a rotation allowing each of the five to bowl two frames during the game. After all games, regular and Baker, the scores are tallied to declare a team winner.
The Bulldogs bowled a three-game series of 2,834 plus nearly 600 additional pins in their four Baker games for a total of 3,432 for third place. Aiden Thorman averaged 191 for the day while teammate Ethan Hester bowled a 190 average with a high game of 2 4. The Lady Bulldogs rolled a total score of 2,718 for fifth place.
At the state tournament in Lowell, the Bulldogs totaled 3,494 pins for seventh place, but were just 30 pins behind fifth place Benton (3,524) in a field of 10 teams. By comparison, the GHS boys placed 10th in 2021. The Lady Bulldogs scored 2,670 for ninth place out of 11 teams this season after finishing seventh last year.
On the boys’ side, Nettleton High School, located near Jonesboro, won first place with a score of 4,293 pins, 290 ahead of second place Greenbrier. But Greenbrier won the girls’ competition with a score of 3,145 pins, or 50 more than second place Vilonia.
“We were in pretty good position to grab fourth place,” said Coach Mercado of his Bulldogs, “but we really needed to crush the Bakers’ games, and we did pretty well, except for one game. We scored a 114 and that kind of killed us.”
The coach also talked about a key addition to his boys’ team in the second semester. “Aiden Thorman wasn’t eligible in the fall and getting him back [was huge]. He’s really good. He came back and did a great job and gave us a shot in the arm. He helped us compete at conference and state.”
Thorman bowled a 245 game at state and Kaleb Kennedy had a 236 game. Kennedy was also named All-state with the 11th highest average among all competitors for the day. Cassidy Childers (166) and Ashlyn Dungan (163) were the top performers for the GHS ladies at state, a group that included several seniors.
“This was a really good group of seniors,” said the coach. “They were enjoyable to be around and I’m glad they got to compete at state. They’ve been with me since I’ve been here. On the boys’ side we’ve got a lot of people coming back. We’re actually not graduating anyone this year. I think we’re going to try and get in a league at Bowling World to keep that group together and get them bowling more. If they continue to get better, they’ve got a shot [at state]. We need to pick up between 600-1000 pins to make a big jump next year.”
The 2021-22 roster for the Bulldogs includes William Hutcherson, Myles McCain, Jason Sokolowski, Ben Bryan, Cooper McCombs, Ethan Hester, Aiden Thorman, and Kaleb Kennedy. The GHS girls include Kennedy Holland, Ashlyn Dungan, Sara Dungan, Tegan Stimac, Cassidy Childers, Madelynn Cassat, and Faith Hurt. Coach Mercado, who also heads up the GHS baseball program, is assisted in bowling by volunteer coach Barbara Brown.