Rohan Ganeshan plays varisty tennis at Buffalo Grove High School and he also plays the violin in the school orchestra. But he is best known around school for being the smartest guy around.
Not only is he an exceptional student and two-time all state state selection by the Illinois High School Scholastic Bowl Coaches’ Association, but now he is a national individual champion in a sport generally perceived as a team sport.
On Sunday, Rohan emerged as the top player in the Individual Player National Championship Tournament, sponsored by the National Academic Quiz Tournament and held at the Hyatt Regency in Rosemont. He distanced himself from a field of 200 elite quiz bowl players from across the country to win the national title.
“In the Scholastic Bowl world, this is the premiere individual tournament,” says Scott Russell, Scholastic Bowl coach at Buffalo Grove High School. “You only raise enough money to fly into Chicago to compete if you think you’re a big dog.”
Rohan himself was thrilled to earn the top spot. He has been involved in Quiz Bowl since he was a fifth grader at Quest Academy in Palatine and those years in middle school helped prepare him for the national spotlight, he says.
“I like the individual competitions. It shows you’re really putting in the time to study,” Rohan says. “Plus, if you’re really good you can take a team really far.”
He concedes that emerging tops out of 200 players doesn’t sound like a lot, but the field was small, he says, because students had to be invited to compete.
“If you want to be the best, you have to compete with the big dogs,” Rohan says, echoing the words of his coach. “You can’t shy away from it.”
Sunday’s championship was the third individual title won by Rohan in the last year. He was the top individual at the NAQT state championship last February, and in the so-called “Uber Competitive” division of another tournament, the Reinstein Varsity Tournament, held in December at Barrington High School.
Rohan is the captain of Buffalo Grove’s Scholastic Bowl team, and he has helped lead them to a memorable year, so far. As a team, they won their second consecutive NAQT Illinois State Championship in February, and they also were crowned the IHSA Regional Champ.
“He’s definitely the anchor of our team,” Russell says. “There’s no question that he’s smart but he’s also a hard worker. He comes to my office every week to ask for new questions. I give him a couple hundred new questions and he studies all of them. And more than that, he’s a really nice kid and known throughout the school.”
Part of Buffalo Grove’s success in the Scholastic Bowl world is their competition in the Northwest suburbs. They repeatedly go head-to-head with rivals Barrington and Fremd high schools in the Mid Suburban League competitions.
“We all push each other, which makes us better,” Rohan says, “but outside of the buzzer we’re very good friends.”
Next up, Rohan and the team will compete in the High School National Championship Tournament, sponsored by NAQT, taking place over Memorial Day weekend in Atlanta. The team is currently ranked #3 in the nation.