Bowling is on the rise across the nation, and the state of Ohio.
But according to Gary Holubeck, proprietor at St. Clair Lanes in St. Clairsville, bowling is also growing on the high school level in the Buckeye State.
"This is going to an exciting season for us because we now have two divisions in Ohio for the first time," Holubeck said. "There will be a Division I and a Division II.
ST. CLAIRSVILLE’S Josh Yeager is one of the top returning boys bowlers in the area.?He enjoyed a solid season in 2012-13 and will be one of the Red Devils’ leaders.
"The little schools won't have to compete against the Canton McKinley's and Cleveland St. Ignatius's," he explained. "They will have their own little division. I hope it makes for more competitive games."
Around Eastern Ohio, half-a-dozen schools are fielding both boys' and girls' teams this winter. They are Bridgeport, Buckeye Local, Martins Ferry, St. Clairsville, St. John Central and Union Local.
"Bowling is becoming one of the fastest growing sports in Ohio and that's really encouraging," Holubeck continued. "We're unsure at this time of the breakdown of divisions. The OHSAA will determine that."
He did note that the OHSAA has 300 schools competing this season.
The following is a breakdown of each school:
A pair of District Tournament qualifiers from a year ago return for the Lady Bulldogs, those being Peyton Stewart and Alexis Willis.
"The girls show very good promise," head coach Tyler Guilliams, who begins his second season as head coach, said. "They are an all senior varsity. We had a very good season last year with only three losses, and two of those are to teams that aren't in our district this year. I think we've got a really good chance of making the districts."
In addition to Stewart and Willis, other Lady Bulldogs include Martina Scalera, Bailee Johnson, Amanda Barath, Tylar McGhee, Cassidy Hixenbaugh and Katie Maizlik.
The boys only have two returners from a season ago in Austin Bennett and Jeff Tennant.
"Most of our kids are new," Guilliams said. "We don't have any seniors, so it's going to be a learning process.
"However, we do have some hopefuls."
The remainder of the squad includes Zach Rogers, Andrew Hadzima, Jacob Darrah and Jared Heslop.
The Panther boys' will be returning three key starters from last season, according to head coach Jerad Call. He was referring to Ryan Lewton, Taylor DeGrava and Daniel Duill.
"I look for us to improve upon last year's record," Call said. "I think we can be highly competitive by the time the sectional rolls around. We've got some kids from the JV squad that have shown great improvement."
Other team members are Josh Faldoski, Jacob Long, Devin Merritt and Chris Smith.
The Panther girls' return four starters from last winter when they went 9-4.
"We return four of five starters, so we are very talented," Call noted. "I think the girls can be in contention for the league title, as well as contend at the sectional."
The roster includes returners Kacey Toto, Katie Merritt, Courtney Durbin and Becky Lewton. Others are Michaela Bailey, Renee Barnhart, Laura Bensie, Desira Carpenter, Erika Cline and Dominique Welshans.
The Purple Riders have 14 boys out this season, but only three are returning starters, those being Corey Morrison, Trevor Burch and Logan Miller.
"I think we will be able to handle our own," head coach John Josefczyk said. "We've got three pretty good starters and a couple of promising kids coming up. We've got some potential."
He mentioned Codey Morrison and MacKenzie Ewing as having a lot of potential.
Rounding out the roster are Aaron Fox, Zeb Heath, Jeremy Hughes, Tevin Kociban, David Laslo, Garret McCroskey, Jacob Mitchell, Robert Snodgrass and Jacob Timko.
There are 13 girls out for the Purple Riders' squad, but four of them are experienced starters in Caitlyn Heath, Cassi Mazeska, Ashley Kutcher and Kelsey Nickerson.
"We will definitely be better than we were last season," Josefczyk said. "Last year all I wanted the kids to do was bowl and have fun. I think we will be a lot more competitive this year."
He said Maddy Krob has a lot of potential.
Others are Katie Campbell, Alexandra Gocsik, Mickayla Kutcher, Tifini McCausland, Courtney McCloud, Kirstin Smith, Becca Theaker, Bri Webb and Matteson Zavatsky.
The Red Devil boys enjoyed a breakout season last winter when they won 16 of 17 matches, the lone loss coming to Martins Ferry.
With a pair of district qualifiers among the 16 on the roster, things are looking bright this season.
"We are a senior heavy team and two of them will average over 200," head coach Mike Heath said. "We are hoping to qualify the entire team this season.
"We've really got our eyes set on the sectional, but our main goal is to represent the school and community at the state tournament."
Nathan Heath and Josh Yeager have qualified to the district, and both are capable of reaching that level again this season.
"We have our team goals, but the kids also have their personal goals," he added.
In addition to Heath and Yeager, the Red Devils' roster is comprised of Anthony Kolakowski, Andrew Hageter, Zach Dopkiss, DJ Milligan, Nick Schneider, Zach Wood, Isaac Toohey, Taylor Work, Tyler Work, Stephen Hageter, Brandon Crager, Nathan Keenon, Matt Kuhn and Corey Thomas.
On the girls' side, 18 are out for the squad, with half of them being freshmen.
"Finishing at .500 is not out of the question," Heath noted. "We've only got three seniors, so hopefully the girls team will be where the boys team is in two years."
The roster is made up of Geena Jarvie, Summer Stephens, Seira Reager, Marissa Black, Emily Drake, Kelsie Hageter, Aelannah Sattler, Breanna Sattler, Eva Comas, Kristy Marker, Amber Funkhouser, Alissa Grimm, Mary Kanopsic, Angelle Collins, Page Gellner, Paige Beckett, Katie Patrizi and Paige Foltin.
ST. JOHN CENTRAL
The Irish will be fielding a pair of teams for the first time in two years as five girls have signed up to roll.
"We're very proud to have a girls team again," Holubeck, who also doubles as the SJC head coach, noted. "We haven't had a girls team for two years, but the interest is really up and that's very encouraging."
Making up the girls' squad is softball standout Hannah Absalom, Cheyenne Harris, Brooke Zonkowski, Ava Scatterday and Kaitlyn Brown.
The Irish boys have 10 bowlers out for the team. They include veterans Garrett Holubeck, son of the head coach, and Aaron Ebbert, along with Frank DePalma, Walter Polivka, Nick Wilson, Bryce Ramsey, Brock DeCoy, Austin Butler, Keegan Sproul and Bryce Zonkowski.
"The future looks bright for SJC bowling," Coach Holubeck said.
The Jets girls' team made OVAC history last winter when it became the first team to advance to district tournament action.
However, head coach Katie Fischerkeller has stepped down and Dustin Stottler has stepped in. The good thing is that the Lady Jets have three seasoned veterans back in the fold. They are Madie Schafer, Lauren Stephens and Kenzi McGlothin.
"I'm looking for good things from these girls," Stottler, a River grad and Barnesville resident, allowed. "We should have a pretty good season."
Rounding out the roster are Sarah Galavich, Kari Alexander, Brianna Loy, Madison Britton, Savanah Matusik, Bailey Pickens, Allyson Bannan, Kori Kercher, Hannah Shepherd, Christen Slater, and Hope Harris.
The Jets return their full roster from last season.
"I was told that we didn't lose anyone on the boys' team," Stottler said. "I think we can be pretty good."
The roster includes Max Parker, Bradley Huntsman, Dylan Nye, Tim Powell, Travis Pinkston, Seth Riggs and Brady Tucker.