Ocoee bowling's Mitchell ready to lead Knights this fall
| 4:15 p.m. September 17, 2015
OCOEE — When it comes to his career as a bowler, Ocoee’s Wanya Mitchell loves the team element the varsity game entails.
Mitchell, a junior for the Knights, likes the idea that every ball he rolls during varsity competition is not just for him, but for “the guys standing behind me.”
So then, it’s no small wonder that when Mitchell — as a sophomore last fall — made it to state and was not only the only representative from Ocoee but also from all of West Orange, it was a different feel with his teammates in class during the afternoon event, and only head coach Joe Amendola there to support him.
“It was very awkward at first,” Mitchell remembers. “Bowling is a team sport, that’s just how it is. So, to go there and see all these other teams … it was very awkward not having that support, that push behind me.”
Nevertheless, the experience was an absolute positive for the local teen, who was just the second boys bowler in Ocoee High’s history to have made state. The other, who now bowls in college, did so as a senior.
Mitchell, whose passion for bowling took him all the way to Chicago this summer for his first international tournament, doesn’t mince words when reflecting on what he learned from his experience in 2014.
“Strikes win games; spares win championships; I missed a lot of easy spares,” Mitchell says, admitting he likely would have advanced with just a few more spares.
Emboldened and more confident this fall, Mitchell has his sights set on bigger success — and hopefully bringing his teammates along for the ride.
“To miss the cut by the number of pins that I did was very interesting to me — it was a mental game, a mental fight, and I think I’ll overcome that this year,” Mitchell says.
If Mitchell is going to lead the team to new heights this fall, it will be one of many tasks on his plate as the student-athlete juggles roles as a drum major for the Ocoee band, AP and honors classes, all while volunteering at his church, Truth International Church, and at Ocoee Middle School.
Luckily, the junior seems to have a good grip on navigating his busy schedule.
“I prioritize,” Mitchell says. “I’m a student before I’m a band kid; I’m a student before I’m an athlete. Academics always come first.”
Amendola, who has Mitchell as a student in his class, says he has noticed a difference in how his star bowler carries himself this fall.
“You can kind of see the maturity level has picked up … and you can see as a student he’s growing up,” Amendola says. “He’s very bright.”
Amendola marvels at how a student manages such a busy schedule and notes that, in all honesty, a bowler of Mitchell’s skill level does not need to participate at the varsity level to be successful. That Mitchell chooses to bowl and represent his school with everything else he has going on says a lot about the young man, he says.
“He’s become not just a leader for our team but, really, around the school,” Amendola says. “Kids like Wanya remind you as a teacher, they’re why you show up every day.”