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Sport of bowling catches fire at Morningside College

February 12, 2018, in Latest News

By Dolly Butz, Sioux City Journal reporter

Ten years ago when she was 8, Mari Pizzini's mother signed her up for youth bowling league on Saturday mornings and said, "Have fun."

"My mom used to bowl before I was born. She thought that I would be good at it," said Pizzini, who said six years passed before she actually began to enjoy the sport. "I didn't start liking bowling at all until I was 14."

Pizzini made friends through her participation in bowling and the sport helped her travel to competitions in 15 different states. Now, the freshman from Helena, Montana, is bowling at the collegiate level for Morningside College.

The Sioux City college has had a competitive bowling program for five years. Over that period of time, head coach Steve Gonshorowski, better known as "Coach G" to his athletes, said interest in the scholarship sport has grown immensely.

"The first year we started, we had seven bowlers and we had a mixed team. Now, we have about 30," he said. "They've all been part of high school bowling. We have state medal winners and kids who have come off state championship teams."

The Mustangs, who now have enough bowlers for two men's and two women's teams, practice three to four times a week. Practice starts with stretching, followed by drill work. Gonshorowski said the teams scrimmage for a while, warm down and then participate in a "fun activity" before calling it a day.

"We have injuries just like the other sports -- knees and elbows more so than anything," he said. "When we bowl an actual event, it's grueling. These kids are bowling for like seven hours on a Saturday and they're standing the whole time."

The teams travel to 10 bowling meets a year. The regular competitive season begins in early October and runs through early February. Post-season competition kicks off in March with sectionals. In week 13 of play, the men were ranked 51st among 173 collegiate teams in the men's division and the women 47th among 139 collegiate teams in the women's division.

"They've gotten better and better and better every year," Gonshorowki said. "They've come a long way. They've learned how to deal and adjust with each other."

In December, the Mustangs competed in a tournament in Las Vegas that had 64 men's and women's teams. This month, they'll travel to a tournament in Chicago that Gonshorowski said will draw in the neighborhood of 140 men's and women's teams. He said each bowler is allowed to bring five bowling balls to competitions.

Bowling ball coverstocks, which include plastic, urethane, reactive resin and particle, affect the ball's performance on the lane.

"If we take two men's and two women's teams, we're probably taking close to 120 bowling balls," Gonshorowski said. "That's a lot of weight."

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