Boys bowling: Vernon Hills' Napierkowski finishes 3rd at Cougar Classic

By Rusty Silber
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 12/4/2021 9:34 PM

Two years ago, Joseph Napierkowski finished 19th in the state boys bowling tournament. The Vernon Hills senior didn't have a chance last year without a tournament because of the pandemic.

But he's got his eyes on another trip back to state in February.


Napierkowski showed that he's among the best bowlers in the state with a third-place finish in the 15th annual Cougar Classic held at Bowlero in Vernon Hills on Saturday.

He finished with 1,328 pins over 6 games behind the top bowler, St. Patrick's Bobby Habetler (1,508), and Jerry Simmons of Harlem (1,343).

"I thought I shot pretty well," Napierkowski said. "There were some errors on me and some on the transition. You definitely want to bowl where you see the good bowlers. You definitely have to know how to handle the stress and the anxiety. You have to calm down your nerves before these types of tournaments."

Napierkowski started out strong with games of 259, 235 and 227 for an opening set of a 721. Then he followed up with 205, 212 and 190.

"It really helps to what happens when these lanes break down," Napierkowski said. "By the final game, I just couldn't get ahead of it, but I think I still did pretty well."

Ender Starr of Stevenson started out with a 171 game but rolled 5 straight games over 200 with a high game of 238 for a 1,322 series that was good for seventh place.

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"I just had to forget about the first game," Starr said. "I just had to move on. I was fine with the conditions and liked them. It was a bit sticky at first and after that it was normal. It helped that I didn't look at any scores and not think of the good bowlers at all. I just thought about our team and what we could do"

St. Patrick won the team title with 6,269 pins. The Shamrocks were 19 pins better than second-place Harlem. Hononegah placed third (6,149).

Glenbrook North placed a respectable sixth place (5,717), Warren was in seventh (5,655), Libertyville eighth (5,654), Grayslake Central ninth (5,629), and Vernon Hills 10th (5,595) in the 22-team field.

"We talked about that coming in, a number of our bowlers haven't bowled in a state series, because there was no state series last year. " Glenbrook North coach Todd Rubin said. "So, we said that this could be like the sectional. We need to be a top six team to make it to state. It will be a battle. I definitely saw some fatigue with the team without a break. Still proud on how they grinded out there. They need to see that before we get to a state meet."

The Spartans missed an opportunity to reach the state meet two years ago by 26 pins.

"These guys don't want to have regrets," Rubin said. "Sometimes the teams from Rockford bring a different level of seriousness and execution. You see what that level looks like, and I respect those programs out there. They have great feeder programs and great coaches. If we want to take it to the next level, those are great models for us."

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