The countdown is on for the Armada boys bowling team.
“We were kind of expecting to be good this season, but we weren’t expecting to be this good,” head coach Jim Carl said. “I think we’re going to have a really good season the rest of the year.”
With six weeks remaining until the regional tournament, Armada leads the BWAC with a spotless 5-0 record and plenty of momentum.
Coming off of the 2021-22 season in which they finished eighth at the Division 3 State Finals, the Tigers started this season with a victory over Croswell-Lexington, providing the team with a much-needed vote of confidence.
“The last couple years, we’ve started off with Cros-Lex as our first match of the season, and the last couple of years they got us, but this year we got them,” Carl said. “When you lose your first match it’s kind of depressing, so the kids have momentum right now.”
That was on Dec. 12. Since then, Armada hasn’t dropped a league match and most recently, finished second at the 16-team tournament at L’Anse Creuse North. This weekend’s Macomb County tournament will be the Tigers’ next challenge.
“The kids practice a lot, that’s all. They work together. They go to bowling alleys as a group of seven guys and they practice together,” Carl said. “I tell the kids at the beginning of every year…the teams that win [state titles] are the ones that go out and practice together all the time.
“They hang out together, they practice together, they each lunch together, they’re friends – that’s what these guys are.”
Carl has led the Armada boys bowling program to two Division 3 state championships, one in 2015 and again in 2020.
“I spent nine years in the Marine Corps. I think to have a good, cohesive team, no matter what sport it is, if they do things together, they have each other and know what each other is doing, they can help fix each other,” he said. “If they’re all bowling together and working with each other and building each other up, it’s a stronger team.”
And that’s exactly what this team seems to be doing. Four different Tigers currently fill the top league’s top 10 season-best scores: Antonio Carrizales (279), Remington Gielniack (258), Ryan Ching (255), and Zachary Obodzinski (233).
“Antonio is really strong. He’s bought a few bowling balls, made some adjustments, changed his game, and is constantly in the pro shop asking for advice. He’s really put in the time,” Carl said. “When he first started I didn’t even think he was going to make it on the team.”
Carl said Carrizales and Ching have recently transitioned to two-handed bowling, a technique made popular by professional bowler Jason Belmonte of Australia.
“They just use two hands, no thumb, and they throw the ball,” Carl said. “It’s a lot faster with a lot more revolutions.”
Led by Carrizales, Armada’s team average is the only one in the BWAC to crack a thousand at 1025, with a game-high of 1079 against Cros-Lex.
For Carl, however, bowling is more than just state championships and statistics.
“I come from a bowling family. My dad and my brothers bowled, I bowled in leagues all my life, and my grandpa had a bowling alley back in the 1920s and 30s, so it’s just a whole family thing,” Carl said.
His grandfather owned a bowling alley in Alabama nearly a century ago before it burned down. Now, Carl is following in his footsteps as the owner of Strikers Entertainment Center in Richmond where he coaches the Tigers.
“We moved to Richmond out of Detroit in the 1970s…We had no friends when we moved here, so my dad took us to this bowling alley called Pine Ridge back then. We bowled and made all of our friends because there was no social media or telephones. You had to go to things,” Carl said. “My family bowled at this bowling alley three or four days a week.
“When I got out of the military, I went back and worked there. Then the owner passed away and I bought it off his estate in 2016.”
Fittingly, Strikers will be the host of the upcoming regional tournament on Feb. 24-25 when the Tigers look to make their return to the State Finals and seek their third championship since 2015.
"This year’s goal is to go back to States and win states again. That's the goal every year," Carl said.
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