The National Junior College Athletic Association bowling championship has grown to become part of Western New York’s bowling heritage in its 47 years of existence and part of that tradition is that Erie Community College usually finds a place at the top of the podium in one or more of the individual events or in the team scoring.
Since the first NJCAA men’s tournament in 1971, ECC has won 18 of the 46 team titles, 10 singles titles, 4 doubles and 15 all-events.
Among the Kats to win all-events championships are: Dana Voytovich (2016), David Zajac (2011), Ryan Ciminelli (2007), Ryan Abel (2004), Tom Ruggiero (2000), Terry Decker (1998), Joe Ciccone (1994) and Brad Kiszewski (1987). Decker still holds the record for a three-game series (832). Ciccone set the all-events standard of 2,870 which still stands. Voytovich also won the singles title last year.
ECC’s women have been even more dominant. They have won 27 of the 40 team singles since the first women’s tournament was held in 1977. In that span there have been 14 singles winners, 18 in doubles and 21 in all-events champions from among the Kats.
Gabrielle Damin in 2014 was the last ECC all-events champion. The list before Damin includes: Jessica Mamon (2009), Kerri Meden (2008), Jocelyn Stutz (2001), Janette Piesczynski (1996, 1997), Kathie McNeill (1989, 1990), Ruth Jensen (1988), Peggy Funk 1983 and Sandi Tice (1979). Funk’s 2,683 record still stands as the women’s all-events record.
This year’s teams are not the usual ECC powerhouses although men finished second in last week’s NJCAA Regionals and the women were third.
After Friday’s opening day of the national tournament at AMF Airport Lanes, ECC was not far off its usual place.
"We’re back in the hunt," said ECC men’s coach Roy Decibus. His team’s 8,350 total is well behind the leader Iowa Central CC (8,738) but only 188 behind the second-place Highland CC. There are three standard team games and nine Baker games to be bowled on Saturday.
Dan Streer (Iroquois) of the Kats bounced back from a bad week at the NJCAA regionals to finish second to Matthew Gury of Schoolcraft (Mich.) in the men’s singles with a 618 series that included a 246 game which was the top game on the board. The doubles team of Ryan Kress (Cheektowaga) and Alex Weinreich was fourth and teammates Griffi Garcia and Tom Kress (Cheektowaga) were fifth. Streer is third in all events, 128 pints off the lead with three games left to catch up.
Decibus got what he expected from his bowlers. Streer returned to form and a bowled a 625 in three team games on Friday. That included a 235 and 208. Tom Kress shot 206-554; Joshua Large 219-454 and Allen Weinreich 202-525.
There was one surprise.
"Alex Leader bowled very well for us today," Decibus said. "He was better than he's been most of the year." Leader shot 203-530.
ECC women stand only eighth in the team standings, well in back of defending champion and leader Schenectady.
Abigail Smith of the Kats finished third in the singles with 226-589 is 12th in the all-events standings with 1,534. The best ECC could do in women’s doubles was 20th place by Kourtney Killian and Chelsea Simmeth.
One down note in the tournament is the decrease of participating schools. Locally Niagara County CC gave up its bowling program a few years ago after bringing it back for a short time. Nearby, ,Monroe and Geneseo CC don’t participate. Corning CC boasted the women’ had Emily Noetebaert as the singles, doubles and all-events champion a year ago, but did not field a team this year. Vincennes (Ind.), a traditional men’s power, no longer is eligible to compete because it allows its team members to participate in paid tournaments.
Eighteen men’s teams and 16 women’s teams were entered.
The hope is that the NJCAA championship in the sport won’t go the way of ice hockey, which is gone after last weekend’s finals in Binghamton because of lack of participation by member schools.
U.S. Open field will be limited
The United States Bowling Congress this week announced some changes for the 2017 edition of the U.S. Open which will be held at the Flamingo Bowl in Liverpool from Oct. 25-Nov. 1.
One important changes is that it will be a select field from a list of invited bowlers. That's because the competition lanes will be limited to just 24 lanes.
"Returning to a select field where an athlete has to qualify brings a higher level of prestige to the event, and the potential to use smaller centers means we can take this great tournament to more places," USBC Executive Director Chad Murphy said. "Additional changes, featuring a limit to the total number of lanes being used and the introduction of separate practice pairs, will further reduce outside factors from influencing the event, which should also be a good thing."
According to the USBC: Among the qualifiers will be the money leaders from the Professional Bowlers Association Tour and top performers at a variety of USBC and international events, including the World Bowling Tour, U.S. Amateur Championships, World Bowling Zone Championships, USBC Masters, USBC Open Championships, Intercollegiate Singles Championships sectional qualifiers and Junior Gold Championships.
Invitees will have until June 1 to accept the invitation, before the spot is offered to the next eligible competitor. Bowlers still are responsible for paying the entry fee. All unclaimed spots will be filled from the on-site qualifier.
Western New York pros Ryan Ciminelli, John Szczerbinski and Brad Angelo and Team USA member Chad Mee are eligible for the Open.
The 2017 event will feature a prize fund of nearly $175,000, with the winner taking home $30,000 and the coveted green jacket.
Of course, the 2018 Open Championships will be held in at the OnCenter Convention Center from March 31 to July 7. It will be the fifth visit to Syracuse with the last in 1999.
Registration for the 115th Open Championship began Wednesday. There will be five squads each day in a 48-lane venue.
Also the USBC Masters will be held on championship lanes at the OnCenter April 9-15 in 2018.
As recently as 2011, Syracuse also hosted the USBC Women’s Championships.