Josh Rex does not look like your prototypical high school bowler. In fact, he looks like he might be able to bench press many of his competitors.
But how does the saying go? One fourth-grader's ACL tear is another bowling team's treasure? No? Well, that's how this one goes.
Now a senior at Dixon High School, Rex was an outstanding Pop Warner football player.
Rex is soft-spoken, but he's not shy about sharing the story of scoring the game-winning touchdown against Morrison in the title game some 10 years ago.
"I was pretty good," Rex said after throwing some practice frames Monday evening at Plum Hollow Lanes.
But a nasty hit to the side of his knee during fourth grade tore his ACL and put him on crutches for the next 2 years.
"I was there the day he did that. It was nasty," Rex's teammate and classmate Andrew Hamburg said. "All of a sudden, it was just bang, and everybody just stopped. But yeah, he was really good."
Rather than "risk of not being able to walk right or having one leg longer than the other," Rex decided to whet his appetite for competition on the lanes.
"Bowling fills the void," Rex said. "It's fun. It's not really very athletic, but once you get into tournament and stuff, you're going to be sore. You're going to be tired just like all the other sports."
Rex brings to the lanes a sort of Teddy Roosevelt mantra: Speak softly and carry a 15-pound, pin-wrecking ball.
"He's got the armswing to overpower a lane," Hamburg said.
Predominantly the Dixon boys' sixth bowler last season, which meant being relegated to backup duty during five-man tourneys, Rex has come on something fierce of late. His 213 average over his last 12 games has elevated his average from 190 to 195.
He spearheaded the Dukes' spirited comeback at the Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference tournament at Bowl Mor Lanes on Jan. 7 in Streator with an event-best six-game 1,274 series. This past Tuesday, he racked up a three-game set of 647.
Rex seems even quieter when compared to the uber-extroverted Hamburg. But Rex was rowdy as a frat boy at an Andrew W.K. concert when the Dukes set the NIB-12 record with 4,014 pins last Thursday in Rochelle.
All six Dukes knocked down at least 624 pins, Hamburg leading the way with a 717 and Rex chipping in a 663 that included a 245 finale.
"If we're striking it and we know it, we're getting loud," Hamburg said. "The other teams hate it when we get loud. They think it's cocky and arrogant. We don't mean for it to come out like that. It's keeping us up, keeping us going and keeping us aware of what we need to do."
"I'm normally the quiet type," Rex said. "I like to keep to my own and figure out what I need to do. But if you're not having fun, you're not going to bowl good. You have to have fun."
So where did all this fun come from lately? Well, Rex has learned to slow things down and make his approach as quiet as his temperament. Earlier in the season, he was rushing, and that big arm of his was working too hard. His backswing was tight and, as a result, he was pulling the ball.
"He knows what he needs to do," Wickert said. "It's just a matter of being in his ear and keeping him slow and relaxed."
With a conscious effort to stay loose and occasionally shorten his approach to slow his roll, Rex is as mellow as his baritone voice these days.
"I just stay slow and stay calm," Rex said. "I don't get in a big hurry. "I look at the lane, and nothing else really matters, other than walking up and staying slow."
High School: Dixon
Statistics: 55 games bowled, 195 average ... 213 average over last 12 games ... Career-best 290 on New Year's Eve 2012 during Cosmic Bowling. He opened with a 9-spare before rolling 14 straight strikes through the third frame of the next game.
Hobbies: Skateboarding, BMX, hunting and fishing
Favorite classes: Chemistry and P.E.
SVM scouts the DeKalb Sectional
Teams (*2012 state qualifier): DeKalb, *Dixon, Elgin, Elgin Larkin, Elgin St. Edward, Hall, LaSalle-Peru, Mendota, *Oregon, Ottawa, St. Bede, Rochelle, South Elgin, Sycamore, Westminster Christian
Quick facts: Dixon, Oregon finished 1-2 at 2012 Oregon Sectional at Plum Hollow ... DeKalb sectional features no state-qualifying individuals from last year
Non-area bowlers to watch: David McManus, Hall; Branden Fank, Sycamore; Luke Furman, Rochelle; Austin Phillips, Ottawa; Will Todtz, DeKalb
Advancement: Top 2 teams, 2 individuals not on those teams move on to state meet Jan. 25-26 at St. Clair Bowl, O'Fallon
Dixon bowlers' stats (varsity games bowled-total pins–average): Andrew Hamburg, sr. (76-16,130–212); Connor Allen sr. (76-15,785–208); Brandon Bonnette sr. (67-13,411–200); Joel Spangler so. (59-1,1687–198); Ryan Dixon so. (74-14,657–198); Josh Rex sr. (55-10,698–195); Lucas Bonnette so. (54-10,445–193); Keenan Longan so. (42-7,748–184); Justin Gardner jr. (38-6,722–177); Brandon Helfrich jr. (39-6,644–170); Andrew Clark jr. (39-6,290–161); Dan Rotella sr. (39-6,065–156); Tom Hopp jr. (24-3,014–126).
Oregon bowlers' averages: Dan Grimm 209, AJ Nordman 208, Brandon Taylor 197, Tyler Lathrop 196, Joe Miranda 186, Mark Schmidt 185, Colton Russell 182, Justin Provo 182.