Ian Ridgway brought nine bowling balls to O'Fallon to the Illinois High School Association state finals last weekend.

The Metea Valley senior brought balls containing different core materials, balls in a variety of coverstock.

He employed them depending on how much hook Ridgway and Mustangs coach Kristen Mansmith sought on the ball, in part based on Ridgway's line to the pins.

Further complicating things in this technician's sport, the oil pattern applied once each day over the two-day competition at St. Clair Bowl made these determinations a moving target as it shifted and dried.

When Ridgway was through, Metea Valley's first male downstate bowler earned an all-state sixth-place finish, trailing champion Nick Sommer of Hononegah by a mere 58 pins over 12 games in a tournament decided in the last frame of the last game.

Averaging 221.4 with a high game of 289, Ridgway improved from 14th place after Friday's six games to attain the highest finish by a male DuPage County bowler since Lake Park's Aaron Adams placed third in 2011.

On Wednesday Ridgway admitted the excitement, like that oil, had worn off a bit. But in school on Monday his accomplishment was duly noted.

"All my teachers made an announcement in class about it. The teachers were happy and then the kids were excited to hear that somebody did that well at state," said the right-hander, who will bowl at Mount Mercy University in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, also the Mustangs.

In the wacky world of college bowling, the Mount Mercy men are ranked well above schools like Ohio State and Penn State but 49 slots below Robert Morris University, the nation's top men's team, according to CollegeBowling.com.

Ridgway, who before sectionals his junior year was derailed by a strained right shoulder muscle, was working at a competitive disadvantage entering the state series.

Metea Valley has a girls team (Ridgway is a manager) but not yet the numbers for a boys program. As an individual, from the start of the season in October to January's regionals Ridgway was limited to three non-high school competitions that required IHSA approval. Mansmith, who also handled Metea's seven boys bowlers, could submit only four to the Lake Park regional, where Ridgway bowled a 300 in his first game.

In O'Fallon, once Mansmith and Ridgway knew he'd knocked down enough pins to make it into Saturday's finals, they adjusted his line and experimented with their implements. As the oil dried on the polished wood, the hook bit harder.

"We realized that we could move further left and play more inside with one of my stronger balls," Ridgway said.

The manipulations worked.

"Day 1 for state was good," Mansmith said. "Day 2 for him was great."

All in the family

This year a partnership between the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, USA Wrestling and FloWrestling produced the first national rankings for girls high school wrestlers. It's no surprise a Gomez is represented.

Alexis Gomez, a junior formerly from Glenbard North but now being home-schooled according to Panthers wrestling coach Mark Hahn, is ranked No. 1 nationally at 152 pounds. She improved from No. 6 after Junior and Cadet Nationals this summer.

Hahn said Alexis Gomez is the cousin of Panthers three-time all-stater Joe Gomez, the 2001 Class AA champion at 119; and the sister of three-time all-stater Austin Gomez, the 2015 Class 3A champ at 113 pounds and the 2016 champ at 126, now wrestling at Iowa State.

OTB news

Last Sunday was the day of the final Opportunity Through Baseball event presented by retiring Neuqua Valley baseball coach Robin Renner and the Wildcats' boosters.

He said speeches by Neuqua graduate David Gerber and former big leaguer Dave Dravecky drew "a million compliments" for their inspirational messages and said overall the event was "great."

Hopefully it'll be even greater years down the road for the attendee who successfully bid on an autographed baseball by Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo and another autographed ball by Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant, packaged with a photo of them in a shadow box frame.

The price? $3,000.

A good kind of stress

Photo courtesy of Kayla MonisNeuqua Valley freshman Alex Monis will play in the Generation Adidas Cup next month.

Neuqua Valley freshman Alex Monis said he loves soccer. The sport is loving him right back.

In an arrangement between his club team, FC United -- a development branch of U.S. Soccer -- and the Chicago Fire Development Academy, the former has loaned him to the latter in order to play with the Fire Academy in the Generation Adidas Cup. That's Major League Soccer's annual elite tournament for under-17 players.

It'll take Monis, who won't even turn 15 until March 20, to the home of the Houston Dynamo Feb. 15-19. The Fire Academy will play youth teams from MLS franchises in Houston, Columbus and Dallas, with the winner advancing to an even bigger tournament drawing international talent in April in Dallas.

"It's just a real good environment where players my age get to see different competition from around the United States," said Monis, a center forward.

The product of a gymnast mother, Jocelyn, and a baseball-playing father, Rich, who met as student-athletes at the University of Illinois-Chicago (Rich is now an athletic trainer at Naperville Central), Alex was impacted more by his older sister, Kayla. She's a Neuqua senior center midfielder who last March announced her commitment to Belmont University.

"Being around her playing it and seeing what she was doing definitely influenced me a lot," said Alex Monis, who in January was called in to the U.S. Youth National U-16 team along with Addison Trail's Javier Casas.

"Soccer, it means everything to me," Monis said. "It's what I've grown up playing my whole life, and to be on this stage and level where I'm at with the U.S. National Team is really a blessing. Just to be in this situation that I'm in right now obviously I can't be content with where I'm at. I always have to keep working and make sure I keep progressing to the next level."

He said his parents remind him other players out there are working just as hard. That brings a certain amount of stress, but it's pressure Monis prefers to the stress of everyday life.

"I go to school every day and I learn, but ultimately I look forward to heading to soccer practice after school every day," he said. "It's a place where I can decompress and escape from everything, just kind of let loose from all the distractions outside of soccer. It's a place where I can express myself and, ultimately, just a place where I feel I can just be myself."


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