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East Islip bowling knocks down athlete-nerd split

East Islip bowler Steve Cole who bowled a

East Islip bowler Steve Cole who bowled a 300 game during a televised match. Photographed with his coach Rick Papandrea at East Islip Lanes. (January 23, 2010) Photo Credit: Newsday/Photo by Joseph D. Sullivan

They've taken the nerdy out of bowling in East Islip.

"It is very cool to be a bowler on our team and the sport is very popular," East Islip coach Rick Papandrea said. "In other schools, it might not be considered such a cool thing. You have to deal with that nerdy stigma. But not over here, not at all, who can laugh at something that is just 'awesome'?"

No one can look down upon a bowler in East Islip because they'll take you to the lanes. And when it's put up or shut up, no one can compete with these guys.

The East Islip boys have broken numerous county, Long Island and state records over the past five years. The averages continue to climb as the pins fall.

Charismatic senior John Knieriemen rolled another 300 game this week. He leads the county with a 231.46 average and has 29 perfect games in his magical career. That's 29 sanctioned perfect games, including four in high school action.

"He's the character, the fun kid to be around," Papandrea said. "He just keeps everyone so loose and that's important."

Junior Ed Tuskan is averaging 222, as is junior teammate Bob Martin. And senior Steve Cole would like a little respect with a 219 average. Imagine that, Cole averages 219, and he's the fourth-best bowler for the Redmen. He rolled a 300 against North Babylon during the week.

The starting five is rounded out by freshman Kevin Bouza, affectionately nicknamed "Baby Legend" for his icy approach and killer ball. He was a starter on the state championship team in 2008. Oh, his average is a sweet 210.

The five-man average of 221 is currently a state record at 1,105 pins per game. The state record was 1,097 set by the Redmen last year. The 1,301 total pinfall in a game against Bay Shore is also a state record.

"The men's leagues can't even compete with our teams," Papandrea said. "I'd put my boys up against anyone for charity. Our alumni want to come back and challenge this group because they're so good. It would be so much fun."

It's all about the good times right now in East Islip. The undefeated Redmen (14-0) are focused on the county title. They haven't forgotten the shocking loss to Sachem North in last year's county tournament.

"We didn't bowl well and they bowled great," Papandrea said. "We tipped our caps to them. But last year is old news. We're on a mission to win it this year."

Sometimes the competition comes from within the squad. Tuskan rolled an 835 series against Bay Shore earlier this year. He had a 299 in the first game and added games of 247 and 289. He just missed Knierieman's county record of 856, set last year.

"Knierieman threw 33 of 36 strikes in his record-setting series," Papandrea said. "He was absolutely on fire. And Eddie [Tuskan] was right there and almost beat it."

Tuskan fell a pin shy of 300 when he left the 4-pin standing on his final roll of the first game. He threw 10 strikes in a row in the third game and left the 10-pin standing on his second roll of the 10th frame to finish with a 289.

"He came in a hair heavy and a little high on the head pin and left the 4-pin," Papandrea said. "He was disappointed because it could have been a strike. He was dealing with perfection in two of the three games - that's pressure."

It all looks effortless for these guys. In the world of knock 'em down, set 'em up, East Islip is the kingpin.

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