Thanks to grandma's influence, Tallmadge grad Robert Wilson discovers his "garden of love" in a bowling alley

Robert Wilson

Like any teenager, Robert Wilson leads a rather busy lifestyle as a student-athlete.

However, when he does have some free time, the Tallmadge 2020 graduate prefers the company of a very special lady.

Forgive Wilson if his idea of a date night is a bit unorthodox. That’s because his favorite place to take his “girlfriend” isn’t exactly the most romantic paradise.

Wilson’s sweetheart isn’t fretting, though. She wasn’t the least bit offended when he didn’t ask her to the prom either.

Mind you, this relationship isn’t exactly typical of ordinary couples. Nevertheless, these unconventional “love birds” have been dating since Wilson was in first grade.

They’re also quite comfortable when it comes to staying in their “lanes.”

“I started bowling when I was 6 with my grandma,” Wilson said.

The accomplished teenager’s “significant other” is Sandy Wilson, who got her grandson started in a sport that emphasizes hand-eye coordination, accuracy and lots and lots of patience.

“I bowl with her during the summer break and winter break,” Wilson said. “She’s getting older, but she’s still pretty good.”

The younger Wilson is “pretty good” too. Actually, he’s really good.

His 204 average ranked third on the team during the winter. Just like Wilson, that particular team is really good as well.

Thanks to Wilson and his talented senior classmates, the Tallmadge boys bowling team had its greatest season ever.

The Blue Devils finished sixth at the Division I state competition. It was a fabulous ending to Wilson’s spectacular career.

Of course, that career wasn’t always been sunshine and rainbows.

Despite finishing 11th at the state tournament in 2018, Wilson and Co. had an unexpected hiccup the following season.

The Blue Devils picked a bad day to have a subpar performance. As a result, they didn’t get invited to the state capital.

The missed opportunity was particularly crushing for Wilson. Especially since one careless roll turned out to be a horrifying disaster.

“Missing states last year was heartbreaking,” Wilson said. “There's no other way to describe it. Missing by only five pins made it even worse, especially when I missed an easy spare in the 10th frame of my last game. It stuck with me the entire offseason and the entirety of the season this year.”

Wilson, who once bowled a perfect game during practice, certainly made amends during his swan song. And he’s going to continue mastering his craft for at least another four years.

Not just with grandma, by the way.

He’s going to continue throwing strikes against his peers. Some of those peers are among the best amateur bowlers in the state.

Wilson recently decided to continue his academic and bowling careers at Walsh University, a private Division II school that makes its home in North Canton. Wilson, who plans to major in finance, chose the private Roman Catholic University over Bowling Green and Kent State.

“I chose to commit to Walsh for many reasons,” Wilson said. “The main being that they are a smaller school with smaller class sizes. I think it would benefit me more academically to go to college where the class sizes are around 10 people, not 100 or more.”

One of Wilson’s future teammates is someone he knows quite well. Josh Parry, a 2020 Tallmadge graduate, will see his friend quite often since he’ll be roaming the streets on East Maple Street too.

“I'm good friends with Josh,” Wilson said. “We always do things like golf and hang out with friends outside school. He and I have been bowling together for 10 years now and it's time to add four more.”

Besides having rare talents like Wilson and Parry on their side, the Blue Devils were destined to become a state powerhouse, thanks to their genuine camaraderie. Wilson, Parry and 2020 Tallmadge graduates Parker Braccio and Cooper Randolph have been bowling on the same team for what seems like forever.

“Bowling with my friends through the after-school program for six years was some of the best memories I could ask for,” Wilson said. “Those guys are some of my greatest friends who I still hang out with three to four times a week.

“I didn't start bowling in the after-school program until my friends, and specifically Parker, asked me to join.”

It’s safe to say that Wilson has been hooked ever since.

Wilson, who rolled a 288 at a summer tournament last year in Columbus, had a 192.71 scoring average during his junior season.

“Robbie is just a great student-athlete,” Blue Devils head bowling coach Scott Krainess said. “He would come practice with us when he was in middle school when his sister Karly bowled for the team.

“He’s a joy to have on the team. He’s a great teammate and is always there to help out. He finished the year strong and was a key member of our team for four years. I can’t wait to see what the future brings.”

Thanks to Wilson and some of his closest pals, Tallmadge’s future can thrive off its amazing past. Prior to the Class of 2020’s accomplishments, the Blue Devils’ boys team had never reached the state tournament. They never had an individual advance either until Parry did in 2019.

“Bowling at Tallmadge was great,” Wilson said. “I couldn't have asked for a different way to spend my four years of high school bowling. Having our senior year end off with a top-eight placement at states in Columbus was the cherry on top for all of the work we've done this season.”

Now Wilson will turn his attention to the Ohio Bowling Collegiate Conference, which also features Muskingum, Rio Grande, Ancilla (Indiana), Miami (Oxford), Akron, Mount Vernon Nazarene, Tiffin and Oberlin.

“I don't know what my goals are with Walsh currently,” Wilson said. “I'm focused for the most part on conditioning and practicing so I'm ready the second I walk in the building.

“It's ultimately up to my coach if I make the starting lineup right away, but I will definitely make it known that I am there to bowl and I'm there to help this team win.”

Before he heads to Stark County, you can be sure Wilson will spend some quality time with a certain pin-craving lady friend.

As the old saying goes, “A garden of love grows in a grandmother’s heart.”

For Wilson, so does a bowling alley.

“My grandma was my first-ever influence to bowl,” Wilson said.

— Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, or @Faceto_Gannett.