By Andrew Johnson
RAVENNA – The Ravenna boys bowling team is rolling through the season with an 11-0 record.
That didn’t seem likely a few weeks ago, when the Bulldogs were 3-0, but suddenly lost a key member of their lineup.
On Friday December 28, Derek Place, a state finalist from a year ago who was averaging 197 early in the season, was jumping on an indoor trampoline when he severely injured his ankle.
“I just landed and all of a sudden I heard a pop,” said Place about how he broke his ankle and fibula. “I looked down and my ankle was sideways. I was more in shock than anything.”
Despite the shock, Place admitted “it was kind of cool to see my ankle sideways.”
Place had surgery on Jan. 2, but it was widely assumed that his bowling season had come to an end.
But his doctors found a device he can wear that allows him to compete.
“My mom kind of mentioned the pipe leg thing,” said Place about the device, which is called an iWalk. “I was willing to do anything I could to get back. It kind of straps to my knee so I can walk on it.”
While Place normally uses a five-step approach when healthy, the device only allows him one step before throwing his ball.
“I’m kind of just muscling it down the lane now,” said Place, who qualified as an individual for the Division 4 state finals last season. “It’s going to take a little while to get used to it, but I feel like every day is one step closer.”
Place returned to action on Monday in a 24-6 victory over Ludington, and despite the awkwardness of wearing the medical device, bowled a 178.
“It’s different,” said Place about bowling with the iWalk device on Monday. “But I’m not in any pain and when I’m on the lanes, it just feels great to be there and doing what I love most.”
While his teammates are very happy to have Place back on the lanes, it’s not as if they gave up when he was hurt.
During the time Place was out, the Bulldogs went 6-0 and improved to 9-0 on the season.
“They really stepped up,” said Ravenna head coach James Nutt. “When Derek went down, the seniors really helped fill the gaps.”
Those three seniors have been a huge plus for the Bulldogs, because it’s their first year of varsity bowling, and they are excelling. River Buckner has a 183 average, Mason Forman has a 175 and Colt Willick is averaging 173.
Junior Jack Sladick and sophomore Andre Guzman are both averaging 170.
At the top of the pack is junior Ethan May, who has been tearing up the lanes with a 215 average.
“He’s really been carrying us,” said Nutt about May. “But the rest of the guys are between 170 and 185, and they seem to bowl well and come through when they need to.”