High school wrestler Louden Swain (Matthew Modine) feels he must do something significant in his life shortly after turning 18. Despite vehement advice against it from his father (Ronny Cox) and coach (Charles Hallahan), Swain decides to try to lose over 20 pounds in a very short time in an attempt to take on the defending state champion of a lower weight class. Meanwhile, he falls for the edgy, older Carla (Linda Fiorentino), who provides further distraction for the young wrestler.
Roy Munson (Woody Harrelson) is a young bowler with a promising career ahead of him until a disreputable colleague, Ernie McCracken (Bill Murray), tricks him into participating in a con game that ends with Roy’s bowling hand crippled for life. Years later, Roy ekes out a hardscrabble existence until he discovers Amish bowling phenom Ishmael (Randy Quaid). With the help of a gangser’s girlfriend (Vanessa Angel), he plots to take Ishmael to the top of the bowling world.