NewsLocal NewsIn Your NeighborhoodHoward


A lifetime sport: Bay Port bowlers strike and shine through bowling season

Posted at 10:30 PM, Mar 09, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-09 23:30:37-05

HOWARD (NBC 26) — Connor Ness started bowling at four years old. After watching his parents bowl at Village Lanes in Howard and wanting to hold his dad’s bowling ball, the sport turned into his passion.

"I’m in here a lot," Ness said. "It's my second home."

Now, he’s a freshman at Bay Port High School and just finished his first year on their varsity bowling team.

This season, the team was undefeated and placed sixth at the state championship. Coach Jerry Polarek said they've made it to state championships every year for the past 25 years, and there’s a lot that goes into a season.

“A lot of people don’t think bowling much as a sport at the high school or college level, but it truly is," Polarek said. "These kids are true athletes. They watch what they eat. They take care of their bodies.”

He said weekly practice is important and includes spare shooting, ball reaction, lane play and team camaraderie.

Levy Gabrielse is also a freshman on the team. This year, he placed fifth in singles at states and said his love for the team and sport continues to grow.

“I love that you can do it your own way," Gabrielse said. "If you look around, everyone’s doing it differently, but everyone can be equally as good.”

Bay Port is one of nearly 200 high school bowling teams in Wisconsin, and they face other local high schools during the October through March season.

"When we bowl against Pulaski in high school, our concourse is full," Polarek said. "People are yelling and screaming. It’s just an awe.”

This year, there’s 17 guys and one girl on the team, and when the seniors graduate, Polarek said bowling doesn’t end there.

“There’s a lot of colleges that give out scholarships for bowling. A lot of people don’t know this, but they do get full-ride scholarships for bowling," Polarek said. "I’ve seen some of my kids walk out with $8,000 to $10,000 in scholarship money.”

However, for the Bay Port team, he said it’s not about scholarships or winning.

"It's the smiles," Polarek said. "The fun.”

“It’s awesome," Ness added.

“It’s a lifetime sport. If it was easy, everybody would do it," Polarek said.