There’s only one resident inside Tyrell Ingalls’ head: Tyrell Ingalls.
His ability to block out distractions and focus on the task at hand has helped make Ingalls a contender for national college bowler of the year. The sophomore at the Savannah College of Art and Design ranks second among all classifications with a 218.146 traditional average.
That concentration, and a devastatingly consistent two-handed delivery throwing the ball, have served Ingalls well in helping lead the top-ranked SCAD men’s bowling team to the NAIA national championship tournament Thursday through Saturday in Sterling Heights, Michigan. The SCAD women qualified on Thursday as the No. team, and the SCAD men No. 4, both earning byes in Round 1 of double-elimination match play on Friday.
Next month, the Bees men’s and women’s teams will compete in the Intercollegiate Team Championships, which include NCAA schools, on April 20-23 in Addison, Illinois.
And eventually after that, look for the 21-year-old Ingalls, a member of Junior Team USA since 2019, to pursue careers in music and on the Professional Bowlers Assocation Tour.
He’s got big plans, really big plans.
“I’m going to change the world,” said Ingalls, a sound design major at SCAD who as a music artist plays guitar and piano, and could be a performer, producer, mixer, composer for entertainment programs and commercials and more.
“I’m going to show everyone that bowling is definitely a sport that needs to be admired, that needs to be viewed by a wide audience. I’m going to show everybody with my music that there’s somebody there for you always, and there’s something that can help you through something.”
A simultaneous life in pro bowling also could take him on the road. He would have to meet required minimums for season averages in sanctioned leagues, then pay entry fees as a PBA member or non-member to enter qualifying tournaments. Then it gets really difficult.
“You’d bowl against the best bowlers in the world,” Ingalls explained. “You keep making cuts, sometimes in a few days, a week, a weekend. It just depends on how big the event is. Then you have to keep making the cut — that way you keep advancing until you get to the finals. Then, usually, that’s who you see on TV. That’s your five bowlers that you go against.”
Ambitious as that sounds, know that when Ingalls’ mind is set on something, like bowling, he has reached his goals and beyond.
“He’s probably one of the most unique in general, and the most unique physical bowlers as well,” said SCAD’s Katie Thornton, the program’s only head coach since it started in 2015. “Pretty much everything about him is unique.”
She could be talking about his 6-foot-3 frame and long legs, which allow Ingalls to smoothly generate power and keep control as he uses two hands to propel the ball down the lane. Two-handed bowlers, compared to more traditional and common one-handed practitioners, get higher revolutions, which lead to more pin action, which increases the likelihood of a strike, which is the point.
“There’s nobody else who can do it the Tyrell Ingalls way,” Thornton said.
Two different shoes, but a matching pair
He’s unique in that he always wears one black shoe and one white shoe — a nod to his parents. His mother Cristolyn is Black, his father Shawn, an excellent bowler who got him started in the sport, is white. Aside from donning SCAD team colors, Ingalls regularly wears black and white clothing also to represent his fascination with the philosophical concept of yin and yang, of contrary forces being connected and complementary.
“If there’s a good, there has to always be a bad,” he explained. “Something cannot exist without the other. There always has to be some sort of balance that goes with everything in life. I’ve always felt is it 100% true because, obviously with some people, you always want to see the good in them. But you can’t have a good in someone without having a bad in someone. You can’t do that. It’s like with everything in life, you have to have one with the other and they have to coexist.”
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A love for dancing, too
Thornton’s comments about uniqueness also could refer to Ingalls dancing after his shots — good or bad — to express his emotions. He may spin around, slide his feet, moonwalk or leg kick.
“Probably ever since I could walk, to be honest, I’ve always danced,” said Ingalls, who was born in Okinawa, Japan, to his military family, and also has resided in Germany, Spain, Utah, North Carolina and, when he enrolled at SCAD, Loganville, Georgia. He now calls Grand Island, N.Y., home.
Dancing helps him deal with a frustrating result as he returns to his teammates. A song might be playing in his head.
The opposing team might not be so understanding, thinking Ingalls is showy or taunting in celebration. Thornton said he’s actually humble, pumping up his confidence with his displays.
Ingalls said he’s not cocky and actually wants competitors to be at their best. He has rooted for opponents on pace to bowl a 300 game (of which he has more than 40 in his young career).
“I would never wish negative things upon anybody,” said Ingalls, who has noted some negative feedback.
“It’s not like I’m doing anything illegal,” he said. “It’s just a dance. You can’t kick me out for dancing.”
Teammate Yannick Roos said Ingalls is naturally shy and has becomes more extroverted around his fun-loving teammates, who seem to have an endless supply of chants and inside jokes to keep the positive energy flowing. It’s serious fun.
“He is just unapologetically himself,” Roos said. “He doesn’t change for anyone, and he is super nice and caring. On the lanes while bowling or outside of the team, he cares for everyone and makes sure everyone is happy.
He’s a people pleaser, Roos said, while content to be on his own.
“He lives in his own world,” Roos said. “Most of the time he doesn’t know what’s going on around him, especially the negative stuff. I don’t know if he blocks it out on purpose. Any time there’s any conflicts going on in life, he doesn’t even know about it. He’s always happy and smiling and always looking at the positive sides.”
Roos, a senior, said that Ingalls doesn’t seem to feel pressure during a match, no matter the stakes, and remains calm and consistent.
“It definitely has its benefits of him not worrying about anything around him,” Roos said.
Playing with emotions to spare
Case in point, a SCAD match last fall in Wisconsin. Ingalls was the anchor in the five-man lineup, meaning his turn is last and he could face the most pressure-packed situations.
Ingalls was so focused on the final frame that he lost track of the score. He thought he needed to pick up the spare for the Bees to win.
Already known for his animated reactions when he bowls, Ingalls contorted his legs for a little body English to coax the ball to knock down the last pin standing. It was close, and he leaped into the air when the pin dropped.
“He was going crazy,” Thornton recalled. “We’re all like, ‘What are you doing?’ He said, ‘I thought I needed the spare.’ I’m like, ‘We already won, dude. It’s already over.’ “
They had a good laugh about it after the victory.
“It was just one of those times, where it’s like, it would just be Tyrell not to know what is going on in that moment,” the coach said. “He knows what’s going on, but he’s in that own little world.”
In his defense, Ingalls said his mindset might not work for everyone, but it does for him. It’s too easy to find something that could throw off his game, so he prefers “my own world” during competitions.
“For me, if I just stay in here, and I just focus on what I need to do, and doing the best that I can at it. I just feel like, I can’t ask for more than that,” said Ingalls, who might have a song in his head or think positive thoughts about family and friends, and he considers his teammates to be both.
Nathan Dominitz is the Sports Content Editor of the Savannah Morning News and savannahnow.com. Email him at [email protected] Twitter: @NathanDominitz