Seth Sikkema is just 15 years old, but when you talk bowling with the Fulton High School freshman, he sure comes across as a lot older.
Sikkema is the first Steamer to advance in the IHSA tournament, where he will compete at the Stevenson Sectional in Mundelein on Saturday with a trip to the state tournament on the line.
Sikkema is from a family of bowlers. His father, Steve, is the current Iowa state record holder for three-game series score, and has rolled 300 games more than 50 times. Seth first set foot in a bowling alley at 4 months old, and he rolled his first ball at 18 months.
“It’s been a long road, but here I am now,” said Sikkema between practice games Thursday afternoon at Triple Play Lanes in Fulton. “I’ve put a lot of time and effort into this game to get to this point, and it’s finally starting to pay off with some success.”
Considered a club team, the Fulton bowling squad featured three players this season: Sikkema, sophomore Matthew Eads, and senior Justin Peterson, whose father owns the bowling alley. The trio did not bowl in any high school tournaments throughout the season, but traveled to Freeport last Saturday for the IHSA regional.
Sikkema and his father, who supervises the team, hope the success will get a few more kids interested in joining the team. With Sikkema, Eads, and Sikkema’s younger brother, Stanton, who will be a freshman next year, already in line, Steve and Seth hope they can wrangle up two more kids which will allow them to compete as a team in next year’s postseason; they would need to bowl in six regular-season meets or tournaments to be eligible.
It means Seth spends quite a bit of time recruiting potential teammates and lobbying for friends to bowl competitively, instead of just for fun.
“I really hope that if I do well this year, we get a few more kids to to go out next year,” he said. “If I make it to state, that would be a huge step; I’m telling myself that we’re going to have a nice turnout next year, a lot of kids who go out because they know that you can get somewhere now, because I did. Hopefully we can have success as a team real soon.”
For now, Sikkema is a solo act, but it’s something he’s used to. He bowls in the Greater Iowa Bowling Tour, with other high schoolers and collegians across the Mississippi River. When he started going to those tournaments – he’s traveled to Cedar Rapids, Waterloo, Des Moines, Davenport, and even Nebraska – at 13 years old, he was one of the youngest on the tour.
“I heard from one of my good friends in Clinton who bowled one of their tournaments, and he said he had a great time,” Sikkema said. “I went with him to one tournament and didn’t do too bad, so I’m pretty much a regular player now.
“It was kind of strange to not see any of those guys at last week’s tournament, since they’re all Iowa bowlers, so it was kind of weird not going up against them for once.”
But that didn’t deter the well-spoken, gregarious freshman. Even among total strangers, Sikkema rolled the second-best score for individuals not from the four advancing teams. His six-game series of 1,290 was behind only champ Derek Poole of Winnebago (1,415).
“Since I didn’t know anybody there, I just felt like I needed to throw the ball better … and I did,” Sikkema said. “There was a lot higher expectancy of me, a lot more teams around, kids watching me, and a little more pressure on the inside, and I’m really expecting even more of that this week, especially heading into the greater Chicago area.
“You just have to take a deep breath, go through your pre-shot routine, then get up there and throw the ball the best you can. If the pins fall your way, great; if they don’t, just make a good shot with the next throw.”
He will be joined at Lakeside Lanes by the Dixon Dukes, who placed second at the Freeport Regional with a 5,998, and Oregon junior Joe Miranda, whose 1,257 was the third-best score among individuals from non-advancing teams.
Sikkema hopes he’s far from done, though. He’s got his sights set on the state tournament in O’Fallon in 7 days, and is confident that he can achieve much more by the time he graduates high school.
After that, his career goal is to one day bowl on the PBA Tour.
“My expectation is to go to state this year,” Sikkema said. “I’ve put the work in, I’m expecting to throw the ball really well this weekend, and hopefully the pins fall my way.
“And if I keep practicing the way I do, I really, really hope that I’m a state champion by my senior year. I’m going to put a lot of work into this game, I’m going to put in a lot of time, and hopefully everything pays off and works out for me.”