Like he does at the end of most freshman soccer seasons, Harold Bailey made a pitch for his players to also consider playing another sport —like bowling.

The Evanston coach didn’t know that he was putting Zev Grodzin on the path to becoming a pioneer in the program.

Grodzin became the first Wildkit bowler to advance to the final day of the Illinois High School Association state tournament and earned a 59th place individual finish overall at the 2-day tournament in downstate O’Fallon.

Grodzin, a senior, was only the second player in program history to qualify for State and averaged a score of almost exactly 200 over 12 games, with a total pinfall of 2,408. He rode a strong start Friday — with high games of 242 and 239 in his first 3 attempts —for a 669 series, then turned in an afternoon effort of 551 to easily crack the top 30 finish as an individual required to compete on the final day.

His Saturday scores of 170-219-200, and then 203-183-213, capped a brilliant career for someone who just picked up the sport upon entering ETHS.

Bailey credited that strong start on Friday, in an atmosphere different from anything Grodzin had previously experienced, to providing the boost the steady senior needed to stick around for a second day of competition.

“We talked about it before the tournament, and I said if you can jump out early (with a good score), it’s better to be the one being chased instead of the chaser,” Bailey pointed out. “If you can be consistent and make some marks (spares and strikes), there’s a good chance you’ll make it to the next round.

“He had a good cushion and he really took care of business Friday. He was just doing what he does out there. He had a stellar day.”

Grodzin’s scores during the regular season featured series’ mostly in the 600 range, and that’s where he finished out his season on Saturday.

“That’s the first time he’s had to bowl 12 (competitive) games like that on back to back days,” the coach pointed out. “It was so exciting for him as a senior, knowing how hard he worked for 4 years. He made it to the point (state finals) that some of the others there have been working to for 8 or 10 years, and that’s a pretty big accomplishment.

“He didn’t make it past his sophomore year in soccer, even though he was a good player. His body just hadn’t developed at that point. I think being able to bowl and play another sport definitely paid off for him. You don’t always have to focus on just 1 sport, because you might be good at something else, too.

“I’m so proud of Zev and all that he accomplished. I thank him for bringing me along for the ride.”