Last weekend, St. Clair Bowl in Fairview Heights was a jam- packed house with hundreds of people squeezing in to catch a peek at Illinois’ top bowlers.
Parents and teams were yelling out chants and cheers while people were standing on ladders to see 24 teams and 144 individual bowlers battle to win the IHSA boys bowling state title.
Even though this was Columbia bowler Cameron Touchette’s first year bowling for the Eagles and it was the freshman’s first time at state, the scene was nothing new to him.
“Its kind of similar,” Touchette explained, citing the bigger tournaments he’s been in as a youth bowler. “It’s sometimes bigger, with more people.”
As the first freshman in Columbia’s history to advance as an individual to the state competition, last week’s Republic-Times Athlete of the Week came in on Friday bowling a low-end first game of 167.
Touchette said he was “scared, nervous,” but then, “my nerves calmed down.” He bowled his highest game of the tournament next, rolling a 277 and then a 243 to round out the morning session of day one.Eagle bowler Cameron Touchette bowls in his highest game of the tournament, rolling a 277.
“He showed an effort and that he could stay in there,” Columbia bowling coach Kevin Nowak said. “I think it came down to keeping his focus on the game and not getting distracted.
“I think he showed a lot of promise as a freshman doing that.”
Touchette also showed promise making the cut to advance to the second day of tournament play, knocking down a total of 1,348 pins on the day (167, 277, 243, 180, 236, 245). Only the top 30 individual bowlers Friday could move on to bowl Saturday, and he came in 12th place.
“I didn’t think I was going to do that great,” Touchette said. “But I also hoped that I could win.”
Saturday, Touchette did make a strong state push, bowling his way to seventh place with a 2,672 total for the two days (179, 202, 218, 257, 200, 268).
“Seventh is very good, especially as a freshman,” Nowak said. “Everyone is very proud of him.”
“Now they know he’s here.”
Nowak also pointed out that Touchette has a chance to go tostate all four years of his high school career.
It’s a goal that Touchette hopes to achieve, and then some.
“I hope to win sometime, in the near future.”
Until then, Touchette plans to enter numerous scholarship and bowling tournaments in the off-season, as he bowls year-round.
Touchette finished just one pin back of the sixth state bowler, Kolton Hess of Belleville East. Shawn Matejcek of Lockport took home the boys individual state title, Dylan Plahm of Salem came in second, Billy Goodman of O’Fallon finished third, Livio Bolzon of Chicago’s Whitney Young took fourth and New Lenox’s Josh Glover rounded out the top five.
Lockport also took home the team state title trophy, while O’Fallon (2nd), Salem (3rd), Centralia (6th) and Belleville East (9th) all finished in the top 10 of the tournament that was represented heavily by the southern part of the state.
“We are now seeing more and more local bowlers making a showing,” Nowak explained.
Currently, the IHSA bowling program is not divided by class or school size. Small schools compete amongst the larger schools all season long and in the post season.