Naperville Central boys bowling makes first state appearance

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“We’ve been knocking on the door. We’ve been knocking on the door politely. We’ve been trying to kick the door down to get to state and this year, we finally said we’re going to just knock it down. We’re going to barge in and say, ‘Hello,’” said Brian Dunn, head coach of Naperville Central boys bowling.

After three straight seasons of falling just short in the sectional round, Naperville Central boys bowling punched its ticket to state for the first time in school history. The team delivered a flawless 18-0 record in dual matches throughout the season and won a regional title, another program first. The perfect season is only the fourth of any athletic team in Naperville Central history. The Redhawks couldn’t take home the state trophy, but still finished in the top seven, proving to be one of the best programs in Illinois.

Greatest team ever for Coach Brian Dunn

Coach Dunn’s varsity team was made up of three seniors in Sean Lee, Nathan McKinley, and Ethan Rupp as well as three sophomores in Thomas Kradenpoth, Nate Taverna, the regional individual champion, and Sean’s brother Aidan Lee. This group broke so many records including a dual match three-game series record of 3368 points against their rival Naperville North. All six bowlers were more than capable of scoring the high game for the team. It’s undoubtedly the greatest team Dunn has ever coached at Central.

“It was great. It feels really good. This is something that I didn’t expect. If you had told me freshman year walking in that I was going to be a varsity bowler my senior year, I would have said, ‘No way’, but here we are today. It’s been a great experience,” said Sean Lee, senior for Naperville Central boys bowling.

After making it through sectionals to the state series in O’Fallon, the team was one of the 12 to advance to the second day. Coach Dunn and his bowlers were elated to have the opportunity to continue competing.

“Once we were through the morning session on Friday, we were in third place and we’re like, ‘We’re as good as anybody here.’ There are teams that we know that have shot ridiculously great scores, but now we’re all in the same place on the same lanes and we’re proving we’re just as good if not better than them. So, let’s get to Saturday. Once we got there, we knew that it was a time to celebrate,” said Dunn.

Sean Lee’s magical season

Senior Sean Lee was a huge factor in Central’s magical season. He had many impressive performances including a 299 game in the state series itself when he led the team with a total of 2553 points. The craziest part is he accomplished all of this in his first season with the team. He decided to join after watching the success his brother Aidan and his teammates were having last year.

“He [Aidan] joined high school with Nate and Tommy last year. So, I went out to most of the matches, most of the invites. The LaSalle Peru Invite, when they won last year, was really the turning point. And I went, ‘I really want to do this and be a part of it.’ I got my own stuff. I started practicing with Aidan, Tommy, Nate, Ethan, Nathan and stuff like that and it’s been the best experience ever,” said Lee.

Three-year varsity starter Ethan Rupp brought the most experience to the roster. He will graduate as the all-time pin fall leader in school history as well as the first to top 50,000 points in his career with 50,812. The senior relished the record-breaking season and run to state.

Ethan Rupp’s favorite part of the state run

“My favorite part, overall, was probably the bus rides. It was very chaotic, lot of fun, lot of jokes to go around and then sometimes when you get to go to a pit stop and eat for fun. Another part of state that I enjoyed was the hotel because that was the first time I was with the guys for more than like a tournament. I was with them all day. And then just little shenanigans like that was fun,” said Ethan Rupp, bowler for Naperville Central boys bowling.

After the Redhawks enjoyed a year to remember, Dunn and assistant coach Matt Zieman learned many lessons along the way that should be helpful for future seasons.

“I think the biggest thing that Matt and I both learned is that you got to take in the experience. You got to enjoy it because each year is going to be different. Each year is going to present its own challenges. It’s just to be vigilant in what we can do. Every day it’s a different day and enjoy each one. It’s been a great year,” said Dunn.