2023-24 NewsTribune Boys Bowler of the Year

Mendota senior Landon Bauer returned to state, led Trojans to best season in school history

Mendota's Landon Bauer is the 2023-2024 boys bowler of the year.

When he entered high school, Mendota senior Landon Bauer didn’t think much about about having team success in bowling.

“Last year and this season completely changed my perspective,” Bauer said.

After having the best individual season in school history as a junior – becoming the first Trojans bowler to advance to the final day of the state tournament – Bauer focused on team success for his final high school season.

With Bauer leading the way, the Trojans had the best season in school history this winter.

Mendota went undefeated in dual meets, won the Hoopeston Area tournament, placed third at the Oregon Invite and finished fourth in the Plainfield North Regional to qualify for sectionals as a team for the first time in school history.

“It means a lot because it shows that all the underclassmen put in the work and put in an equal amount of effort that I did to have a successful season,” Bauer said. “We wanted to enjoy this season because we knew we had the potential to go all the way. That was our goal was to get as far as we could. We accomplished it during the regular season, not losing a single match. Besides not being able to make it to state as a team, we accomplished almost every single goal we set this year.”

And he accomplished his individual goal of returning to the state tournament if the team was unable to advance.

Bauer also led the area with a 215 average, won the Oregon and Hoopeston Area tournaments, rolled two 700 series and nine 600 series, placed seventh at the Plainfield North Regional and took fourth at the Rockford Jefferson Sectional.

For all he accomplished, Bauer is the 2023-24 NewsTribune Boys Bowler of the Year. It is the second year in a row he won the honor.

“It was probably the best that I’ve performed throughout the regular season,” Bauer said. “I think it was because I had a better time than I had in the past, just enjoying the sport as well as doing well at tournaments and meets. It was the most fun season I’ve ever had.”

Bauer was the leader of a team full of sophomores.

“He pretty much kept everybody involved in practice, kept everybody’s spirits high,” Mendota coach and Landon’s father, Matt Bauer, said. “He was a pretty good leader. He was a good role model for the younger guys. He was kind of our third coach. He tends to see things happening a lot quicker, especially during transitions, so he was really good with helping guys get lined up and make consistent shots. That was a big help.

“Obviously, he put up a lot of big series and big games. He’d keep us in it. A couple times, we relied on him to have to strike out in the 10th frame to get us ahead and keep us moving. He did that quite a bit.”

Landon Bauer said he was able to put up good numbers after putting in work in the offseason. He’d often go to the bowling alley alone but also went with his dad, brother or friends.

“After last year, I did a lot more work on trying to place my shots and actually read the lanes a lot better than I had in the past so I could make adjustments and know what ball change I had to move to to help improve my game,” Landon Bauer said.

Matt Bauer said he’s able to take a more hands off approach with Landon now that the high school season is over.

“I can kind of sit back and watch when we’re at scholarship tournaments now,” Matt Bauer said. “He’s really understood ball movement, transition, what boards to play.”

Bauer is already working this offseason in preparation for his career at Kansas Wesleyan University.

“I’m working on my spare shooting, my targeting, everything that I need to worry about down lane,” Bauer said. “It means a lot [to bowl in college]. It feels like I’m getting an opportunity to show what I can do. … I have a lot of goals for myself next year. During the offseason and summer, I’m going to work as hard as I can to make sure I’m capable of achieving those goals.”

With Landon Bauer moving on to college, he won’t be going through a bowling season with his dad and brother, Paxton, next season.

“It was a little emotional [this season] because it’s our last time we’re all going to be doing something like this together,” Landon Bauer said. “It’s something that we’ll never forget.”

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