There’s barely such a thing as a traditional power in men’s college bowling.
Wichita State still meets the requirements, as the Shockers advanced to the championship round of the intercollegiate championships with a semifinal win over defending champion Lindenwood on Friday at Northrock Lanes.
WSU meets Midland (Neb.) in Saturday’s best-of-five final. The women’s final will be decided between North Carolina A&T and Robert Morris-Illinois, which defeated WSU in the best-of-seven semifinals on Friday night.
The WSU men are persevering long after many of their closest competitors from the end of the previous century have exhausted their relevance. The Shockers and San Jose State are the only teams in this year’s 16-team field that played in the national tournament prior to 2000.
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Now NAIA schools own many of the most prestigious bowling programs in the Intercollegiate Team Championships. Semifinalists Midland and Calumet College of St. Joseph (Ind.) are NAIA members, while Lindenwood, in St. Charles, Mo., moved to NCAA Division II from NAIA in 2013. Men’s bowling is not an NCAA sport.
“It’s different teams,” said WSU coach Gordon Vadakin, who is in his 37th season and has led the Shockers to 10 national titles. “You go back in that record book and there were a lot of traditional schools that were fielding teams. We still have some of those, but these NAIA schools have started to grow.
“The San Joses and the Wichita States, there are fewer of those schools that are getting to this level because those NAIA programs are (awarding scholarships) and getting talented athletes to come to their schools.”
Many of those schools are overnight successes who enjoy prominence far longer than just overnight. Midland’s team began in 2010; it took one season for it to reach the national tournament and Midland has been every year since.
Calumet is a ninth-year program that has participated in nationals every season. Lindenwood owns a pair of national championships even though it didn’t make the national tournament for the first time until 2004.
WSU, which has competed in nationals 33 times since 1980, is still the standard for teams looking for long-term success, but the model for establishing immediate prosperity has been built over the last decade.
“I maybe didn’t know this many years ago or back in the ’90s that we were going to have to compete so hard off the lanes (i.e. recruiting) as we do on the lanes, but we do now,” Vadakin said. “We’re OK with that – in fact, I love it. We have a lot to sell at Wichita State.”
College bowling has grown because, Vadakin said, it has become more popular in high schools, creating more bowlers and more schools who can field teams with high-level players. NAIA schools and smaller NCAA schools can boost enrollment by establishing bowling programs and recruiting players not far from home.
WSU has noticed a shift in who it joins in vying for national championships, but there is no extra pleasure taken in knocking off up-and-comers.
“We’ve been around for a long time and people know us as having the best bowling program in the country,” WSU junior AJ Chapman said. “We like to live up to our name, you could say. I don’t think we want to push (other teams) down, we just want to push ourselves up.”
Five of the first eight championships were won in the late 1970s and early 1980s by schools with Division I football teams, but only three of the last 24 fit that description.
WSU recently renovated the student center that houses its bowling lanes and the Shockers are thriving while other schools with larger athletic programs have turned away from bowling.
If WSU had attempted to start a bowling program in the 21st century, though, it may not have thrived.
“There’s no way we’d be successful if we started a program 10 years ago – there’s no way,” Vadakin said. “If it was that easy I’d tell you, but it’s not. You have to learn things by doing them to understand how to do them better and how to improve upon what you started out doing one way and have to learn to do better.”
(Best-of-7, double-elimination match play)
Webber International def. Lindenwood-Belleville, 4-3 (Lindenwood-Belleville eliminated)
Purdue def. Pikeville, 4-3 (Pikeville eliminated)
Lindenwood def. Clarke, 4-2 (Clarke eliminated)
Davenport def. Urbana, 4-3 (Urbana eliminated)
McKendree def. Webber International, 4-2 (Webber International eliminated)
Calumet def. Purdue, 4-1 (Purdue eliminated)
Lindenwood def. San Jose State, 4-0 (San Jose State eliminated)
Notre Dame-Ohio def. Davenport, 4-0 (Davenport eliminated)
Midland def. Wisconsin-Whitewater, 4-3
Wichita State def. Robert Morris-Illinois, 4-3
Calumet def. McKendree, 4-0 (McKendree eliminated)
Lindenwood def. Notre Dame-Ohio, 4-2 (Notre Dame-Ohio eliminated)
Calumet def. Wisconsin-Whitewater, 4-0 (Wisconsin-Whitewater eliminated)
Lindenwood def. Robert Morris-Illinois, 4-2 (Robert Morris-Illinois eliminated)
Calumet def. Midland, 4.5-1.5 (Second semifinal needed)
Midland def. Calumet, 4-1 (Calumet eliminated)
Wichita State def. Lindenwood, 4-2 (Lindenwood eliminated)
Emmanuel def. Wisconsin-Whitewater, 4-3 (Wisconsin-Whitewater eliminated)
Delaware State def. Bowling Green, 4-1 (Bowling Green eliminated)
Webber International def. Midland, 4-1 (Midland eliminated)
Stephen F. Austin def. Wright State, 4-1 (Wright State eliminated)
Grand View def. Emmanuel, 4-1 (Emmanuel eliminated)
Wichita State def. Delaware State, 4-0 (Delaware State eliminated)
McKendree def. Webber International, 4-1 (Webber International eliminated)
Stephen F. Austin def. Lindenwood, 4-2 (Lindenwood eliminated)
Robert Morris-Illinois def. Pikeville, 4-3
North Carolina A&T def. St. Francis-Illinois, 4-3
Wichita State def. Grand View, 4-2 (Grand View eliminated)
Stephen F. Austin def. McKendree, 4-1 (McKendree eliminated)
Wichita State def. Pikeville, 4.5-1.5 (Pikeville eliminated)
St. Francis def. Stephen F. Austin, 4-2 (Stephen F. Austin eliminated)
Robert Morris-Illinois def. Wichita State, 4-1 (Wichita State eliminated)
North Carolina A&T def. St. Francis-Illinois, 4-0 (St. Francis-Illinois eliminated)
Men’s singles semifinals and finals, 9 a.m.
Women’s team finals, 11
Women’s singles semifinals and finals, 3:30 p.m.
Men’s team finals, 5:30