With his slight build and thick-framed glasses, Ryan Dixon doesn’t outwardly possess caveman qualities.
When it comes to bowling, however, the Dixon High School senior once had a trait of the most famous caveman, albeit a cartoon one, of them all.
“I would walk up to the line like I was Fred Flintstone, and then throw the ball,” Dixon said.
Dixon used a seven-step approach, from the time he first started bowling as a third-grader in the Saturday morning league at Plum Hollow, until he got into high school. His footwork caught the attention of teammates, specifically former Duke Derek Siebert, who called Dixon “Twinkle Toes.”
“One practice, I was like, ‘OK, I can’t do this,’” said Dixon. “It’s not a big deal, but everybody was telling me you’ve got to cut some steps out.”
Dixon was getting the job done. He rolled a 645 series in his first dual match, at Ottawa, as a freshman, and let his detractors know about it.
“I beat all the seniors and juniors,” Dixon said. “That was really cool. I was giving them a lot of crap.”
About a third of the way through his freshman season, though, Dixon switched to a more conventional five-step approach. There was an adjustment period.
“It was really weird, because that’s how I always went up to the line,” Dixon said. “That was my routine, but then I just stopped it and did something else. It threw me off at first, but then I was like, ‘This isn’t that bad. I can do this.’”
Dixon averaged 192 as a freshman, upped that to 200 as a sophomore, dipped to 196.6 as a junior, and is now averaging a team-high 206. Dukes coach Al Wickert has him in the leadoff spot in the lineup, one of the more important slots.
“He brings a certain amount of leadership,” Wickert said. “Even though he’s not our anchor bowler, he can still throw that big game we need once in a while. We need somebody at the top to get us going, and Ryan does a great job doing that.”
Dixon rolled a 726 series on Tuesday at Rochelle. That was on the heels of a seventh-place finish at the Northern Illinois Big 12 Tournament on Monday in Streator.
The past two seasons, Dixon has been part of Dukes teams that have qualified for the state tournament. As a sophomore, he bowled just one game, and posted a 165.
As a junior, he bowled three games – a 164 in the morning, then a 201 and 189 in the afternoon. Those squads were full of veteran upperclassmen who have moved on, and this year’s squad, led by Dixon and juniors Lucas Bonnette and Joel Spangler, are eyeing a third straight berth.
“That’s always the goal, to get to state,” Dixon said. “We haven’t been too great lately, but we just have to put it together when we need it.”
That’s something Dixon has shown he can do. This past fall, at the Class 2A Freeport Golf Sectional, he was the medalist with a 71. He went on to tie for 83rd at the state tournament.
Golf is Dixon’s top choice when it comes to sports, and he’ll play this fall for Sauk Valley Community College. He noted that sport helps with his bowling, especially when going through a rough stretch.
“Golf, it’s all you,” Dixon said. “There’s nobody else that can make you mess up. It’s just you. Bowling, it’s the same way. Nobody can really make you mess up. It’s all you.
“If I get upset or mad, I can hold myself down pretty good for a long time, because golf has helped me out with that.”
FYI: Has top average (206) for Dukes bowling team. ... Finished seventh at NIB-12 tournament on Monday. ... Sectional champ and state qualifier in golf as senior