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It's a strike!!! Friendship knocks down individual bowling honors

Jan. 27—SMYRNA

It's hard to argue a claim Olivia Rush is the best female bowler in Division II in Tennessee.

Some three hours after the Friendship Christian senior was named Miss Bowler, the defending state champion made it two in a row with a 181-167 win over Harding Academy's Simone Guyton at Smyrna Bowling Center on Wednesday.

Friendship, which was back in action the next day as the team tournament got under way, made it a clean sweep with two boys getting top honors.

John Brooks was named Mr. Bowling before entering the state finals as the No. 3 seed out of six seeds in a stepladder format. But Brooks was swept away by No. 5 seed, and teammate, Logan Winkler, who knocked off two teammates in winning five matches, capped by a 223-169 win over St. Benedict's Jackson Roberts to take the boys championship.

Winkler beat his teammate, No. 6 seed Brody West, 215-145. He then knocked off Pope John Paul II's Finn Donnelly 217-200 before defeating Brooks 169-145. PJPII's Zane Collins was next, going down 180-160 to set up the final. Once there, Winkler rolled strike after strike, not letting Roberts up for water, in taking the title.

If he had his choice of awards, Winkler had no doubt of his preference.

"I'd rather be state champ," he said. "That's very hard to get. Very long day. I'm just very happy, and congrats to (Brooks) too. He definitely earned it."

As for facing teammates with so much at stake, they were prepared for that as well.

"We play each other so often, it's just kind of fun," Winkler said. "It's kind of like our Saturday morning league. The only difference is here it's like a $5 bet, nothing major."

Brooks, who will carry the Friendship dynasty with Winkler, Rush and West to Tennessee Wesleyan next season, was happy enough with his award.

"It's an awesome feeling," said Brooks, who averaged 218 for the regular season. "Something I'd been wanting for a long time. I turned my grades around just for this award. I've been practicing a lot for this."

Winkler was a Mr. Bowler finalist.

"We both practiced really hard for this award and tournament win," Brooks said of his future college roommate. "Congrats to him. I wouldn't have rather lost to anybody else in the six."

Their coach is a former Commander, Luke Shoulders, who returned to his alma mater this year from being an assistant at Boyd Buchanan and took over for longtime coach Mark Strickland, who was on hand for the tournament.

"We have a lot of talent on our bowling team," said Shoulders, son of longtime girls' coach Jon Shoulders. "It's all a credit to those guys. They've worked their (tails) off, bowling over Christmas and continuing to work their way through this. Super glad for Logan to win the individuals and super glad for John. Both are very deserving for their awards."

And the season wasn't over yet.

"The fun part about it is after both of them won their awards, they both said 'the job's not finished yet'," Shoulders said. "So they're as excited about team as they are about individual awards and honors."

While Winkler was basking in the glow of his championship, Rush was finally getting into action as the No. 1 seed, which assured her of no worse than state runner up. Guyton, the No. 3 seed as a junior, ruined an all-Friendship final by beating senior Landry West 151-128 in the semifinal. But Rush was not rusty as she resumed her pace from the morning to take her second straight championship. She rolled an 1116 in the semifinals to take the top seed while Landry rolled a 985 for second.

Rush said winning as a senior was harder than doing so as a junior.

"Definitely harder senior year," Rush said. "Any of the past three years you have the mindset you have next year. I feel like this year I definitely had a lot more pressure, especially after last year."

She was asked which award, championship or Miss Bowling, meant more.

"The state championship means more, just to go back to back," she said. "For me, that was one of my personal goals."

Also in the state final on the Division I side was Green Hill senior Aiden Neal, who was seeded sixth and lost to Stewarts Creek freshman Matteo Quintero 190-172 in the first match.

Neal qualified for the final by knocking down 1212 pins during the morning semifinals. Mt. Juliet senior Alan McCoy was 11th with 1140. Green Hill senior Tate Gray rolled a 1040. Lebanon senior Braxton Cook turned in a 1005.

No one from Wilson County made the girls' DI finals. Mt. Juliet junior Rachel Martin rolled a 1020 in the semifinals while her sophomore teammate Savannah Wilhoite had an 847.

Back in DII, Friendship's Cayden Brown just missed the boys final by two places and 52 pins, rolling 1111. On the girls' side, Lady Commander senior Shelby Lane was ninth with 852. That made for seven bowlers in what looked like, at least on the private school side, look like the FCS Invitational.

"Our kids have really worked hard," Jon Shoulders said. "They worked all during the break preparing to be able to play. There's a pattern for the individual and there's a pattern for the team and they've been working both. We're just so proud of their accomplishments."