Pioneers by definition get an early start and so it was for Lyons seniors Mike and Robert Kicmal.
The fraternal twins began bowling about the same time they could walk, giving them a leg up on other kids. Now they’re doing the same for their school team.
The Lions, who won their first sectional title last Saturday, have fielded a varsity team for only four seasons but already have been to state once and are currently ranked sixth by Illinois Bowling. The Kicmals, both four-year starters, are a big reason why.
“Michael has always been our anchor man,” Lyons coach Francisco Gamboa said. “He’s very consistent and he bowls very well under pressure.
“And Robert is probably by far our most versatile. He has the most ability to change his shot and his speed. And he has a strong mental game.”
Together with senior John Yanulis, the Lions have three standout bowlers that would make many programs envious. Those three led Lyons to state for the first time last winter. The Lions finished 13th, missing advancing to the second day by 68 pins even though three of their bowlers were in their first season of competitive bowling.
The Kicmal twins have long been competing with each other and their peers. Their father is former PBA Tour bowler Bob Kicmal, who is still active on the regional senior tour. He introduced his sons to the sport at an early age.
“[Age] two is probably when we started throwing a real bowling ball, but our dad probably got us learning about bowling when we were 11 months old,” Mike Kicmal said. “There’s pictures of me throwing a plastic ball at plastic pins in the kitchen.”
Mike is the more accomplished of the two, having finished 23rd in the state last season, but the twins have been remarkably close statistically this season for the Lions, who are 10-1 in dual meets and finished second at two invites.
Mike averages 223 and won the Plainfield North Invite title with a career-high 1,458 total, while Robert averages 215, four pins higher than Yanulis, who was 65th at state last year. Both brothers have a high game of 286 this year, though Robert has the higher three-game series (787).
“Sometimes I can be super competitive with him but other times I’ll ask him for help and usually he’ll give me help and I’ll bowl a bit better,” Robert said. “But most of the time I’d say it’s competitive and I want to beat him.”
“In practice it gets really competitive,” Mike admits. “We just try to beat each other just for fun, but all in all we know that it’s a team sport and we have to work together to get victories and help this team win.”
That attitude has fueled the Lions’ best season yet.
“Their passion for the game, their knowledge for the game has been imbedded in them since they were kids by their father,” Gamboa said. “So I think that in itself has created a culture within the team of wanting to try that new piece of equipment and the excitement of throwing a new shot or trying to adapt to increase their information.”
LaGrange is not known as a bowling hotbed, but the Kicmals are hoping to change that. That’s why they want to end their careers on a high note.
“[The perfect finish would be] winning state,” Robert said. “If the whole team bowls decent and me and Mike bowl at least above what we usually bowl, we have a really good chance at getting first or second.
“We’re seniors so we have to get it done now,” Mike said. “It’s our last chance.”