Not many kids turn out to be college athletes. And not many college athletes turn out to be bowlers.
But Garrett Thomas has been wanting that very thing for years. Tuesday, he made it official. Thomas signed a letter of intent to bowl at Muskingum, a private liberal arts college in New Concord, Ohio.
“It pretty much started when I started high school,” he said. “That’s when I really got into it. Once I got to high school, I realized that there’s all these competitive league tournaments. That’s where I met all my friends.”
For Hampton high school bowling, the Thomas family are stewards of sorts. Garrett’s father, Glen, started the program two years ago so his two sons Garrett and Jacob could compete more often.
Muskingum coach Doug Smith knows about starting programs like that all too well. He started the bowling program at Zanesville High School before taking a short drive to Muskingum to do the same thing six years ago.
“Looking for bowlers at Muskingum, we travel to a lot of different states and cities,” said Smith, a retired athletic trainer at Zanesville and a USBC Silver-Level bowling coach.
“We host or sponsor four high school bowling tournaments and get to see a lot of great bowlers.”
Thomas steadily has become a great bowler by high school standards. He averages between 180 and 190 and participated in the Junior Gold Championship at American Airlines Arena in Dallas last summer.
One of his bowling friends, Joshua Hoffer, now a freshman bowler at Muskingum, gave Smith a recommendation.
“He said Garrett was a friend of his, and we should take a look at him,” Smith said. “Sometimes that’s how it is, just word of mouth.”
Thomas impressed Smith with more than just his bowling skills.
“They were heavily recruiting me,” said Thomas, who plans on majoring in early childhood and special education. “They were interested in my academics, well-being, social life. They don’t just consider sports. They take everything with it.”
The hard work Thomas has put in on the lanes finally paid off.
“Then you watch him bowl, he has the talent to bowl collegiately,” Smith said. “Hopefully we can work with his game, and he will become a very good collegiate bowler.”
Since there are no divisions in bowling, Thomas will travel to tournaments in different cities and states and play against some of the most well-known schools in the midwest such as Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State.
The current roster at Muskingum has 18 bowlers — 7 girls and 11 boys — some from as far as South Carolina and Hawaii.
“I’m more excited by how the competitive level is. How people should be bowling this age,” Thomas said. “How nice people are, go new places. And maybe go professional or straight into my career.”
Devon Moore is a freelance writer.