The Free Press, Mankato, MN

December 17, 2013

In 2013, East bowlers experience a lot of ROCK & ROLL

Cougars senior finishes with No. 1 ranking in the state

By Jim Rueda jrueda@mankatofreepress.com
The Mankato Free Press

---- — Growing up in Mankato, Zach Rock was always a pretty good bowler. Last year, however, the junior at Mankato East took a big step forward and began to separate himself from a lot of kids his age.

Today he is considered one of the top junior bowlers in the state. And he has the credentials to prove it.

He ended the season as the No.1 bowler in the state with a fill percentage of 94.89 and a strike percentage of 73.72. He rolled 101 strikes, 29 spares and only seven opens during the season which lasts from mid-September to mid-December.

Now a senior, Rock helped the Cougars win the South Central Conference this season with a 9-3 record. East’s team average was the second-highest in the state (behind Faribault) and both Rock and teammate Logan Johnson earned all-conference honors.

“Yeah, we had a pretty good year,” head coach Gene Braam said. “This is my 12th year coaching the team and it’s the best we’ve ever done.”

In addition Rock and Johnson, the East team included Ben Winans, Nick Gall, Debbie Ristau and Jeremy Bungert.

“It was a fun season,” Rock said. “I’ve been bowling since I was about 11 or 12 when a friend talked me into joining a junior league at the Wow Zone. I loved it right away but it wasn’t until last year that things started to take off.

“That’s when I started to figure things out. I finished 17th in the state last year and then I jumped up to No. 1 this year. My game average right now is about 225.”

Rock admits he surprised himself his junior year but this season he was a little better prepared to bowl with the state’s elite. Still, even he didn’t see a scenario where he would be named the Most Outstanding Player in the conference two years running.

“I may have underestimated myself a little bit,” he said. “But now I’m bowling with a lot of confidence.”

Braam describes Rock as an “amazing” bowler and said it has little to do with any natural talent he may have been born with.

“This kid has worked his tail off to get where he is,” Braam said. “He’s at the bowling alley every chance he gets. He’s definitely a self-made bowler.”

Rock says the sport has been good to him and he’s looking forward to continuing his career in college.

““I’ve met a lot of different people and been able to travel to a lot of different places in Minnesota because of bowling,” he said. “It’s fun to make new friends and to bond as a team.”

Rock has narrowed his college choices down to two schools: One is Midland University of Nebraska which competes in the NAIA and the other right here at Minnesota State, Mankato. Mankato is considered one of the better Division II club programs in the country.

“I’ll figure it out at some point,” Rock said. “Right now I just want to finish up my last season of juniors and then I can join a men’s league.

The Mankato East senior has two long-range goals right now. The first is to get a degree and eventually become a paramedic. The second is to become a good enough bowler to get on TV.

“Right now I’m just having a lot of fun,” he said. “We’ll see where it takes me.”