Shelby Brawner knows her way around Lucky Lanes Bowling in Denison about as well as she knows the back of her hand.
Her father played in bowling leagues in Denison when Brawner was young and introduced her to the sport when she was in elementary school. She played in a Saturday morning youth league for years, growing to love bowling more and more.
Brawner bowled for Denison-Schleswig High School. Now, she’s the boys and girls head coach, alongside former high school teammate Jennifer Totten, her assistant coach.
The Monarchs’ boys team made its first state tournament since 2016 this past winter. Despite bowling a 2,989 in prelims at state and taking the sixth seed, the Monarchs soared in the finals. The beat Ottumwa, 3-1, knocked out North Scott, 3-1, then rolled to a 3-0 win over Oskaloosa in the championship match.
For leading Denison-Schleswig boys bowling to the state title, Brawner has been named the Register’s 2022 All-Iowa boys bowling coach of the year. She, along with all members of the All-Iowa boys bowling team, are all invited to the Register’s All-Iowa Sports Awards, which is returning to a live, in-person program honoring the top student-athletes around Iowa. The event’s time and date are still to be determined and will be announced soon.
Brawner, a 2010 graduate of Denison-Schleswig, came back to her alma mater after graduating from Northwest Missouri State University to teach high school Spanish. It was only natural that when Matt Wilder stepped down as boys bowling coach, Brawner took over for the Monarchs.
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Brawner and Totten did what no other Denison-Schleswig team has been able to accomplish in 28 years — win a state championship.
The Monarchs entered the finals at Cadillac Lanes in Waterloo as the No. 6 seed, then proceeded to knock off Ottumwa, North Scott and Oskaloosa to win the Class 2A state team championship.
It was the first state team champion for Denison-Schleswig since the 1994 baseball team brought home gold.
“Our season had a lot of ups and downs,” said Brawner, who also coaches the girls bowling team. “We had a lot of home matches early. After Christmas we hit a little bit of a slump. We weren’t bowling poorly, but we weren’t getting a lot of wins. We were trying to figure out the different types of oil patterns, which really helped when we got to the postseason.”
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Brawner did a little thinking outside the box to get her team ready for the state qualifying meet and the state tournament.
“State was a whole different animal,” she said. “During the season, we only bowled two Baker games. At state, we bowled five Baker games. So we worked on our Baker games a lot to get ready. A couple days we bowled 15 full Baker games. We reached out to some other schools, like Sioux City East and Lewis Central, and we scrimmaged them to get ready for state. That really helped us a lot.”
Brawner had another obstacle to deal with late in the season. Her daughter was born in late January, causing her to miss about a month of the season. In the meantime, Totten and former Denison-Schleswig coach Jim Harms stepped up to handle the coaching duties.
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Thanks to a lot of help from her husband, Jacob Brawner, and family, Shelby Branwer was able to resume her coaching duties in time fort the postseason.
“My husband deserves a lot of credit,” Brawner said. “He stepped up and watched our 2-year-old and our newborn so that I was able to continue coaching.”
The Monarchs peaked at the right time. The team of seniors Harrison Dahm, Kyle Segebart and Blake Polzin, and juniors Lucas Segebart, Christian Schmadeke and Trey Brotherton won their state qualifying meet at Le Mars to qualify for state for the first time since 2016.
Polzin advanced to the finals as an individual, losing in the quarterfinals. Kyle Segebart and Brotherton also competed as individuals.
While the Monarchs graduate eight seniors, they return four juniors, two sophomores and six freshmen, along with several promising eighth-graders, who look to build on the Denison-Schleswig bowling tradition.
“They are all super excited. This is a big thing for our school,” Brawner said. “I’m excited for next year. We have a lot of potential.”
Matt Levins is sports reporter for the USA TODAY Network in Burlington, Iowa, who has covered local sports for 31 years. Reach him at email@example.com.