Leiendecker carrying on family tradition

Leiendecker carrying on family tradition

A few thoughts from the week in sports …

The accomplishments of area athletes and teams never cease to amaze me, and the OHSAA postseason is the biggest stage to display their talents.

Wooster bowler Abbie Leiendecker has been as impressive as just about any local this winter — on and off the lanes.

For starters, she began the 2022-23 school year as a junior and will end it as a senior. She will have enough credits to graduate this spring.

Leiendecker made an official visit to Div. I Louisiana Tech in December and signed a letter of intent. She will graduate a year early in order to bowl with her sister Allie, who will be a fifth-year senior in 2023-24.

Abbie, who started taking a larger class load in the fall, has a full athletic scholarship. She put the exclamation point on an outstanding career for Wooster by placing ninth out of 96 bowlers at the Div. I state tournament to earn second-team All-Ohio honors on March 10.

“This year really shows that hard work pays off,” said Abbie, who was a sectional and district champion, two-time Ohio Cardinal Conference Player of the Year and had a 215 average as a senior. “People don’t know how much work I put in behind the scenes.

“I announced my signing on New Year’s Day, but I’d met with my guidance counselor (Cordell Smith) in November to change my schedule to make sure I can graduate early and be NCAA eligible.”

Abbie was only in classes at Wooster High School for 3 1/2 hours a day to start the fall but increased her class load to all seven periods. In addition to bowling 10-15 games six days a week, she did CrossFit five times a week leading up to the season and also lifts weights.

Abbie is carrying on a family tradition. The Leiendeckers could be called the first family of Wooster bowling.

Al Leiendecker is part-owner of Wayne Lanes and coaches his daughters in their non-OHSAA tournaments. Tracie Leiendecker is the Generals varsity coach and founded the program as a club team in 2009. In addition to having her daughters bowl at the state tournament, she helped coach senior Dawson Gaynor to a state trip this season.

“Some people might think ‘it’s just bowling,’ but to be really good, you have to put in lots of extra work like in any sport,” Tracie said. “I actually have mixed feelings about Abbie starting college early, but how can I not be proud to see how hard she’s worked?”

None of this seemed possible during Abbie’s freshman year when the COVID pandemic forced schools to shut down and turn to remote learning. Being stuck at home was the worst thing for an energetic, highly social girl.

“When Abbie was an eighth-grader, she was near the top of her class,” Tracie said. “Having to learn online was the worst possible thing for her, and we heard of other families who had kids really struggle. She became distant, detached. We butted heads. It didn’t look like a bright future for her.”

Abbie said, “I tried finding the easy way out with school work, and I wasn’t putting as much work into bowling as I should have.”

Al Leiendecker said his daughter has made a complete 180 in the last two years.

“We’re very proud of her,” said Al, a Waynedale graduate who was the center on the Golden Bears’ 1985 Final Four football team. “We missed out on a lot of valuable training time when she was a freshman and sophomore, yet I think she is ready to step in and make an immediate impact on the collegiate level.

“Abbie has made impressive improvements on the lanes over the last year. She’s always had a big-time physical game. It just took a while for the focus and mentality to catch up.”

Many in the bowling community call the OHSAA state tournament a “three-game crapshoot” because it takes as much luck as skill in such a limited format.

Colleges and other states use a five-game qualifying series, followed by bracket match play. Abbie’s career highlights are much bigger than just the OHSAA action.

Abbie shot 621 to finish ninth out of 96 bowlers at the Div. I tournament on March 10 to earn second-team All-Ohio honors (Allie’s best finish was 10th). Abbie was the individual sectional and district champion this season.

Nationally, Abbie has two top-10 finishes at the National Teen Masters and three match play appearances at Junior Golds (youth bowling’s U.S. Open) with a high finish of 13th. She has seven Ohio Junior Tournament Bowlers Association championships and is a four-time Ohio State Pepsi champion.

Abbie's career-high game is 300, and her high three-game series is 798.

Louisiana Tech is ranked No. 12 in Div. I, and older sister Allie, who received an extra year of eligibility due to COVID, is their cleanup bowler and a four-time All-American.

“I wouldn’t be where I am without my family,” Abbie said. “My dad owns a pro shop and is a partner in the bowling alley, so I get a lot more opportunities than other kids. My dad is my competition and physical coach, and my mom is my high school coach and my mental coach. They definitely help me a lot.

“My sister is a huge part of my life when it comes to bowling. Not that I’m trying to match expectations to do everything she’s done, but she’s shown me what’s possible and is there for me.”

Parting shots — If it was a Hollywood movie, the Chippewa Chipps would have won the Div. III state girls basketball title and given legendary coach Denny Schrock a championship in his final game.

Instead, Columbus Africentric won 75-62 to deny Schrock the first state girls basketball title for any Wayne County school. It was still awesome to see the Chippewa girls become the school’s fourth Final Four team and join the 1994 squad as the only finalists.

Schrock ended his 42-year career with 723 wins, which ranks in the top five on OHSAA’s all-time leaderboard.

—Congrats to the Hiland boys basketball team on qualifying for the Div. IV state tournament this weekend and coach Mark Schlabach for earning his 500th win. Schlabach’s photo was put on social media to recognize the accomplishment, and my first thought was, “He has to be the youngest-looking coach to ever win 500 games.”

—Condolences go out to the family and friends of Larry Acker and Andy Kobilarcsik, who both passed away this week.

Best known as Norwayne’s superintendent and a longtime OHSAA board member, Acker was a great man who passed away at age 83. I always enjoyed talking to Larry and appreciate his support over the years.

Kobilarcsik was voted No. 21 on The Daily Record’s 50 greatest athletes of the 20th century list in 1999. I was privileged enough to meet with Kobilarcsik to write that story and recount his incredible senior year at Wooster High School in 1960-61. He scored the game-winning TD in a battle of unbeatens against Orrville, won a state wrestling title and was a track standout.

Aaron Dorksen can be emailed at aarondorksen24@gmail.com.

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