When Josh Blanchard decided to transfer from Fresno State after his sophomore year, he didn't have to look around to decide where he was going next.
Blanchard is a bowler, and Wichita State was his destination.
Blanchard, now a senior, wanted to join a team that competes at the highest level. He had stood across the ball return from the Shockers at tournaments. He knew the program's history.
"It was the opportunity that this university had that I didn't have there," Blanchard said. "Just from the resume that this place has and the coaching staff is unbelievable, this is where I needed to come."
Blanchard and his teammates begin competition today at the USBC Intercollegiate Team Championships in El Paso.
After sweeping the men's and women's titles last year — which had only been done once before — WSU wants to become the first school to sweep both titles in consecutive years.
The men's team is going for a three-peat, accomplished only once before by WSU from 1993-1995.
Two women's teams have won back-to-back titles, including WSU in 1977-1978.
"I think we're extremely lucky and I don't feel any pressure at all," WSU coach Gordon Vadakin said. "I think we have everything to gain and nothing to lose."
Blanchard, chosen bowler of the year Wednesday by the Bowling Writers Association od America, and senior John Szczerbinski lead the men's squad, but it's the depth and talent of the entire team that makes them a threat to win the tournament.
"Just to be with a group of guys that are this talented... when I was on Team USA I was blessed, but unless I make that team again, this is the most talented and experienced team I'll ever be with," Blanchard said.
Blanchard, Szczerbinski and Jake Peters were all named All-Americans. Blanchard is a four-time All-American.
Seniors Rocio Restrepo, Daniela Alvarado, Mariana Ayala and Sandra Gongora lead the women's team. Freshman Jazreel Tan was chosen rookie of the year by the BWAA and was a first-team All-American.
"When you have the problem of having so many talented people, it can be a problem," WSU women's coach Mark Lewis said. "But the girls know that they have to come in and step up and be ready. This group has done a great job of that."
The biggest problem that Vadakin may have after coming back from the Shockers' tournament record 35th appearance at nationals: fitting more trophies into an already stuffed cabinet.
"They're going to have to do something, that wall is full," Blanchard said. "That's something cool that we get to have, but I think they need to build them a little bigger."
Jets back too
Newman's men team joins WSU at nationals for the fourth time in seven years.
The Jets are led by senior Derek Hartnell, who leads the nation with a 215.446 average. At sectionals he helped spark a mid-week comeback.
"Derek is such a hard worker, is just really talented and has worked to continue to improve over the four years he's been here," Newman coach Billy Murphy said. "We're excited to be back here and going back for the fourth time is a great sign for our program."