Two years ago, Matthew Sindone was running winter track as a sophomore at St. John the Baptist. If it wasn’t for someone close to him recommending he try something else, he still might be on the team.
“My friend told me that I should try out for the bowling team. I was like ‘Bowling?' I never thought about doing it competitively," said Sindone, now a senior at SJB. "I tried out my junior year and made it. I didn’t really know most of the guys going into it, but my coach and teammates welcomed me right away and helped me get to where I am now.”
It turned out to be a good decision for Sindone, who earned a third-place finish Saturday in his first appearance at the CHSAA boys bowling state championship. After winning two matches, he was defeated by defending state champion Michael Weber of St. Joe’s (Buffalo), 279-216, in the third round of the step-ladder final at Levittown Lanes.
The championship consisted of the top 25 catholic league bowlers in the state. Everyone threw a total of five games, and the top five advanced to a step-ladder final. The final began with the fifth-highest scorer matched up against the fourth-highest scorer. The winner then took on the third-best bowler, and the process continued until there was only one person remaining.
Chaminade’s Christian Freel capped his illustrious high school tenure with a ninth-place finish. He had a 1,022 series and was the second-highest Long Island finisher.
“I’m really going to remember all the teammates that have been with me along the way," Freel said. "We won the four team championships during my four years at Chaminade, and that is pretty special.”
Sindone rolled a 1,062 series (in five games) and earned the fourth seed in the step-ladder final. He matched up against No. 5 David Smalls of Cardinal Spellman (Bronx) in the first round. Sindone started out with four straight strikes and added three more in the eighth, ninth and 10th frame to defeat Smalls, 233-198.
“I certainly felt the pressure, but during the course of the season I was the anchor bowler for my team and already had that pressure on me, so I was accustomed to it,” said Sindone, who averaged a 194 during the season.
Waiting in the wings for Sindone was third-seeded Christopher Wright of Cardinal O’Hara (Buffalo), who had the high game of the championship with a 268 in Game 5. Sindone threw three straight strikes to open the second round and outlasted Wright, 225-161.
“When I first heard my name announced as the fourth seed I was a little nervous, but once I found my spot in that first round I knew I was going to take it,” Sindone said. “I just tried to keep myself calm, maintain a positive mindset and was able to advance. Overall, it was a crazy but awesome experience.”
Weber threw 11 strikes in the matchup against Sindone and converted a 10-pin spare in the seventh frame. He went on to win the state title for the second consecutive season, defeating his teammate Robert Cehulik, 298-184.
The St. Joe’s senior rolled 11 straight strikes in the final round and was one ball away from a 300. He knocked down 8 of 10 pins on his final throw.
“I turned to Rob and was like ‘what is happening, this isn’t even real,’ ” said Weber, who had a state-best average of 230 during the regular season. “I have thrown seven 300 games in my career, so I have been in that position a lot. As soon as I let the ball go I was praying for something, but it got what it deserved.”