Bowling: Ari Wilson ‘just a little bit different’ as a winning bowler
By Anthony Nasella Post-Tribune correspondent January 21, 2014 8:28PM
Ari Wilson throws a ball during the Post-Tribune Sport Shot Classic bowling tournament men's division final held at Stardust Bowl III in Dyer on Sunday January 12, 2014. | Charles Mitchell/for Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 23, 2014 6:44AM
For those who witnessed Ari Wilson win the Post-Tribune Winter Sport Shot Classic at Stardust III, the University Park, Ill. resident defeated some tough bowlers en route to the title — including three-time PBA champion Eugene McCune.
But despite his Illinois roots, Wilson is no stranger to Northwest Indiana bowling. A sophomore at Calumet College of St. Joseph’s in Hammond, Wilson bowled on the team as a freshman last year and has competed in leagues at Olympia Lanes as well as leagues in Chicagoland.
“I bowl in leagues everywhere,” Wilson said. “I’m in leagues at Olympia on Tuesday night and Saturday morning (he bowled his first 300 there the night before winning the Sport Shot Classic) as well as Lakewood, Burr Oak and Dolton Bowl. I love the competition and I also love competing in tournaments.”
Bowling since the age of 12, Wilson got started in the sport due to his mother, Shonda Wilson, who was the first person on the lanes to congratulate her son after the win in the Sport Shot Classic.
“My mom, who is a wonderful league and tournament bowler, is my biggest influence and biggest fan,” Wilson said. “I was always with my mom at the bowling alley, even though I did other sports like football and Karate. But I always practiced my game and I actually bowled a 300 before I even started in a league.”
A two-handed bowler from the beginning when Wilson started in league play, he immediately found his niche and kept improving from year to year.
“I had my own way of bowling,” Wilson said. “I did what I did to have fun. Finally, when got in the league, I became an above-average bowler and I took off from there. I never stopped. I wanted to keep getting better. It’s what I’ve wanted to do.”
When Wilson started bowling on the Calumet College bowling team, he said he was definitely impacted by head coach Mike Kubacki.
“Coach Kubacki helped me with mental game and spare game,” he said. “Spares win games, they really do. I had a great time on the team. It was a great experience. I slacked off a little bit in my studies, but I have it back together.”
And he said he considered giving the college team another try, while he continues in his major of business and accounting with the hopes of merging business and bowling together.
“Bowling on the team again is a big possibility,” he said. “A long-term goal is definitely to own a bowling establishment or pro shop. I also have a goal of bowling on the PBA Tour.”
Wilson, who exclusively uses Brunswick and Roto Grip, has his balls drilled by another major influence in his career — Herman Mathus based out of Bluebird Lanes in Chicago. And bowling around Dolton and the region, Wilson said he’s also been influenced by local sharpshooter Brian Gunn.
“I grew up around Brian and I have definitely picked up some pointers from him, he said. “He’s a really good guy.”
Wilson said he’s also excited that he’s not alone as a two-handed bowler and that he counts two prominent ones — PBA player of the year Jason Belmonte and Brian Valenta — as friends.
“I’m actually a little different from them,” he said. “I use my thumb; Jason doesn’t and Brian only puts his in half way. I’m just a little bit different.”