Geneva senior Jason Soto recently began working at Bowling Green in West Chicago, where he since has learned the ins-and-outs of operating the shoe rental counter, cleaning lanes and detecting dead wood. Manning the snack bar is next on Soto’s list, but that all can wait until after this weekend, as Soto competes in the IHSA boys bowling state meet at St. Clair Bowl in downstate O’Fallon. Soto advanced as an individual after a strong sectional alongside teammate Evan Schmidt, who narrowly missed the state cut. Kane County Chronicle sports reporter Kevin Druley spoke with Soto for the latest edition of the Weekend Chit-chat. Here’s an edited transcript:
How were your nerves at sectionals?
It was a tight race up until after the fifth game. Everybody kind of broke away. I was 40 pins out of the race, and in then the last game I came back hard and everybody else struggled, so I pulled it out. … It’s three games, an hour break, and then three more games.
What’s the noise factor like? Are they playing classic rock or jukebox stuff when you’re bowling, or is it dead silent?
During the warmups, they have a little bit of music. Not much. But it’s quiet when people bowl, then if people are on a roll, then obviously you get excited because you try to get the nerves out of you. Everybody’s really cheering each other on, giving high-fives, stuff like that.
What got you into bowling?
My dad [Mark] has been bowling since he was 16. He taught himself how to bowl and got me into it. … As a kid, I might have bowled maybe a handful of times until freshman year.
Why’d you take it on in high school?
In middle school, I wrestled up until sixth grade, and I got tired of it. I started when I was 4 years old. And then I tried basketball. And then when it came time for high school my freshman year, I didn’t have the skills to make the team. So my dad said I either had to try bowling or go back to wrestling, and I wasn’t going back to wrestling because I was done with that sport. So I picked up a ball and tried it out.
How much does that speak to your persistence, to go from recreational bowler to state?
You’ve got to bowl year-round. I didn’t bowl year-round until this year. If I would have bowled year-round years beforehand, I’d be, maybe, 10 times better than I am now [Soto’s average has hovered between 210 and 215 this season].
What’s your style as far as relying on spin?
I’ve always been taught “straighter is greater.” If you don’t cross the lane as much, you have a better chance of getting it straight, less room for error. … I hook it [on spare pick-ups], I just put a little more speed on it to overcompensate.
When you’re walking the halls, are people saying, ‘There goes Soto, the bowler… ?’
People didn’t start noticing me until [Wednesday], because we got back to school after two days. Because Monday and Tuesday, we didn’t have school. They probably would have said something on Monday.
Are you looking to bowl in college or beyond?
I’ve got to go through college first, that’s the important thing. And then, hopefully, I’ll get to go in the [Professional Bowlers Association]. If not, I can always go back to looking for [a job]. Because I want to be a gym teacher. … Right now, if I don’t get a scholarship, then I’m going to Waubonsee [Community College], but after two years, I want to either go to the University of Illinois or [Northern Illinois University].
I’m thinking of the ‘Hoosiers’ scene where the coach establishes it’s 10 feet to the basket wherever you go. It’s not completely like that with different bowling houses, right?
It’s how different houses are based, so there’s different kinds of wood, different oil patterns. … The oil can dry faster or your ball slides more. There’s a lot of variations to bowling that people don’t know about.