Jeff Wheeler said he has a “built-in best friend for life” in his twin brother, James.
At the urging of their mother a decade ago, they learned how to bowl. They endured unspeakable loss in 2018 when Melissa Wheeler died of cancer. And they persevered through a challenging six months in 2000 when Jeff developed and beat stage 4 Burkitt lymphoma.
On Friday, for their mother, they celebrated and cried together after leading Lansing Catholic to the Division 3 boys bowling Finals championship at Jax 60 in thrilling fashion.
After staking a 39-pin lead after two Baker games against Ogemaw Heights in the Final, the Cougars shook off a sluggish start to the team game just in time to snatch away the championship by a 1,239-1,216 margin.
“We’ve been through a lot in our life, a lot of rough times and we just always try to get through it, so doing this just means the entire world to us,” James Wheeler said. “It feels great.”
The senior twin brothers provided huge strikes when Lansing Catholic needed them most, which proved to be in the 10th frame of the championship. Trailing by about 80 pins entering the final frame, James Wheeler and Jeff Wheeler both doubled, Jeff’s first strike sealing the title and sending the Cougars faithful into a frenzy.
“I knew I needed the first shot just to get me hype and the team hype,” Jeff Wheeler said. “Our mom got us into it, and we finished our senior year strong. We did it for Mom.”
Jeff Wheeler’s 199 game with seven strikes led all scorers in the final game. After five opens in the first seven frames, James Wheeler changed balls and threw four straight strikes for 164. Charlie Gates delivered 179, Ethan Wolcott struck out in the 10th for 171 and Jack Hernly’s 158 rounded out the Cougars in the final.
Danny Gassman had 198 and Derek Malone 197 for Ogemaw Heights. Colin Matheson shot 178.
Cougars coach Doug Moore lauded his team’s resilience after it missed qualifying for the Finals last year by seven pins. They advanced out of their Regional by four pins last weekend and took advantage of the opportunity by qualifying third for Friday’s match play. They won their quarterfinal handily over Yale, and then squeaked out a 23-pin victory over 2022 champion Gladwin in the semifinal.
“All day we just said, ‘This is our time,’” Moore said. “Don’t worry about them, just bowl one frame at a time and do your game. This is awesome. I think we’re all going to start bawling.”
About Lansing Catholic High School
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