by Jim Kohner
Nick Heilman is a numbers guy.
He’s got every series he’s bowled this year written down. That’s a lot considering he bowls in leagues four nights a week and competes in tournaments almost every weekend. Heilman keeps track of how many strikes, spares and splits he has in every series.
So far this year, the numbers he’s been tabulating have mostly been big ones. Heilman, who lives in La Crosse and is bowling for the fourth year in the American League at Westgate Bowl on Tuesday nights, is lighting up the scoreboard early on this season.
He’s bowled nine times in the American League and rolled seven 700s. Heilman has not thrown below 700 the last six times he’s bowled at Westgate. He’s the only bowler so far this year who’s recorded three scores over 755 (762, 761, 757).
“I’m learning more about the game all the time,” the 25-year-old Heilman said. “When you’re younger and you have a bad game or a bad night, you get mad and get a bad attitude. You have to learn to take something away positive every night.”
Heilman tied Brian Fakler for the second highest average in Winona last year at 229 (only Josh Wenzel’s 231 was higher). Through nine weeks this season, Heilman’s averaging 237.4.
But it’s not just in Winona where Heilman is on fire early on. He’s currently averaging 233 at Pla-Mor Bowl and 231 at South Lanes in La Crosse. He also competes in a sport league, which uses the PBA Tour oiling patterns, and is carrying a 207 average.
“There’s a lot more oil at Westgate than we have down here,” Heilman said. “That’s the trend you see now. In La Crosse, it’s a lot dryer on the outside. When you watch the bowlers in the Challenge, you see the difference.”
Heilman is a real student of the game and is lending his knowledge of the sport at other levels. He helps coach the high school team at La Crosse Central, and next year he’ll be the assistant coach at Viterbo University when it starts a collegiate varsity bowling program.
He admits his game has flourished because of bowling on different oil patterns. Heilman feels the future of the sport lies with the PBA shot.
“I really hope more leagues go to it,” he said. “The way the whole sport of bowling has gone lately, the sport shot will bring some integrity back to the game. You get these league bowlers that average 220 or 225 and they watch the PBA Tour on Sunday and see a pro roll a 215 game and they say ‘I can go that.’
“You can’t compare yourself to what the pro bowlers do. You don’t realize what it takes to bowl on those conditions.”
Heilman, who operates Nicholas J’s Pro Shop out of Pla-Mor Bowl during the bowling season, competed in the PBA Masters in Milwaukee last year and in another tournament in Indianapolis against the pros. He’d like to spend more time bowling in some Midwest regional tournaments, but most of them are in the spring and summer when his landscaping work schedule makes it tougher to get time off.
It was a week of career highs for Curt Czaplewski and Ryan Bell.
Tuesday night, Czaplewski tossed the top series of his career with a 773 national honor count in the Blue Ribbon League at Winona Bowl. His previous high of 751 was bowled earlier this month.
Bell nailed a career-best 768 series Tuesday night in the American League at Westgate Bowl.
Jeff Smelser and Tim Pozanc both rolled big scores last Friday in the Legion League at Winona Bowl. Smelser rifled a 762 series and Pozanc added a 751. Smelser also knocked down a 749 Tuesday in the American League.
Brian Fakler matched Smelser’s two 700s with a pair of his own (719, 712).
Also turning in 700s for the men were Tod Walters (741), Jerry Bublitz (739), Robbie Waldera (732), Kyle Malewicki (731), Shawn Bergsrud (725), Geoff Schewe (714), Jerry Koutsky (707), Greg Schewe (705) and Jeff Besek (700).
Paving the way for the gals last week were Julie Moldenhauer and Krystal Dorman. Moldenhauer tallied the top score with a 673 series in the Alley Gaters League at Westgate, while Dorman continued her phenomenal start with three more honor counts (658, 632, 625) at Winona Bowl.
Rounding out the women’s 600s were Mandi Steffes (649), Keri Prigge (636), Lynda Krall (635), Kelly Kukowski (634), Rose Schultz (633), Kim Kubis (627), Laurie Wiseman (627), Krystal Beech (618), and Tanya Schauman (601).