Bowling: Youngsters have Calumet College back up in the rankings
By Anthony Nasella Post-Tribune correspondent February 26, 2013 9:54PM
Sophomore Mitchell Katic (left), freshman Ryan Burks (middle) and freshman Matt Kuba have helped Calumet College's men's bowling team rise to No. 7 in the national rankings. | Steve T. Gorches~Post-Tribune
Updated: February 26, 2013 10:09PM
HAMMOND — As the 2012 calendar year was concluding, the Calumet College men’s bowling team was in a tough spot, fighting to find its identity while being ranked just 33rd in the nation.
As the Crimson Wave prepare for the singles sectional on March 8, the program has definitely bounced back since then — jumping up to No. 7 in the nation largely due to the performances of two talented freshmen and a sophomore who’s establishing himself in the anchor slot after being in the starting lineup as a freshman.
Newcomers Ryan Burks (St. Joseph, Mo.) and Matthew Kuba (Burbank, Ill.) have been thriving since finding their way into Calumet College’s lineup, while sophomore Mitchell Katic (Orlando, Fla.) has been assuming more leadership responsibilities on team that features 10 freshman and eight seniors.
“The team is definitely different right now,” Katic said. “I definitely see a lot of improvement from the beginning of the season until now, and I think a lot of that is because we do have freshmen on the team. They’ve gotten some huge exposure in the competitive side of college bowling. You can see they’re getting a lot better, and it’s helping the team a lot.”
Both the journey into the starting lineup and finding success have been learning processes for Burks and Kuba.
“When I first came here, I went about bowling entirely different,” said Burks, who recently followed Katic as the second straight freshman to win the prestigious Hoosier Eliminator in Indianapolis. “Now, my thought process is different. Physically and mentally, my game has definitely developed. Now that we’ve been through a whole season, we understand so much more than we did before.”
Kuba, whom head coach Mike Kubacki successfully recruited after being unable to recruit his older brother, said that having a former Calumet College bowler, Sammy Krucek, as an assistant coach has helped him grasp the game at a more accelerated pace.
“Sammy has really helped simplify the technique and translate it to us because he’s been through the program,” Kuba said. “It’s a little harder to interpret when it comes from Coach. Sammy puts it in our language, and now we’re better able to understand coach Kubacki when he’s coaching us. But it’s been a mentally tough experience because the emphasis has been on bowling technique.”
What has impressed Kubacki the most about Burks and Kuba is that neither began competing in college bowling straight out of high school, and yet both have transitioned and thrived in the fast-paced collegiate environment.
“They’re not your typical college freshmen,” Kubacki said. “And I think they have an extra layer of maturity because of their ability to transition the way they did. It hasn’t been an easy situation for them because they’re taking away playing time from seniors.”
Kubacki also said that dynamic has been especially unique due to the startling contrast of freshman-to-senior ratio on the roster.
“This is the largest senior class we’ve ever had,” he said. “And I knew I needed to recruit some solid freshman to step into some roles — and freshmen are willing to do what it takes compared to seniors who have the challenge of juggling life, college, career and athletics.”
Meanwhile, Katic is gradually accepting his role as not only the anchor bowler, but also that his ability to lead is directly tied to his ability to thrive in that lineup spot.
“It’s not something you learn overnight,” he admitted. “You just have to do it; it’s more of a hands-on role.
“It’s a different pressure when you’re anchor. The game is on the line and my teammates are looking up to me. I’ve definitely gotten better in those pressure moments.”