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Bowling: How a WNY team won the 1999 national title

The USBC Open Championship begins in two weeks in Syracuse and it will be a reminder that five bowlers from Western New York took the regular team championship the last time the national tournament was held there, in 1999.

That was the Zawadzki Jewelers team from Lackawanna that triumphed with a 3,336 total.

The Zawadzki lineup included Stan Cielepak of Niagara Falls, John Meczynski of Bufalo, Ron Stacy of Buffalo, Shaun Sterner of Niagara Falls and Rich Tomaka of Hamburg.

They bowled their winning score early in the tournament, then had to sweat out nearly five months to see if it would stand up.

"After taking the lead so early in the tournament we decided the conditions were going to be the same for everyone. If a team beat us, God bless 'em," Meczynski told the Bowlers Journal after the victory was assured and the team collected the coveted American Bowling Congress eagle.

"When we filled out the interview form in February, I never thought we would come back on the final day as winners. It's a special feeling," Meczynski, the 1993 Obenauer Masters champion, added.

The victory had its dramatic moments, and each of the five bowlers seemed to have his own big moment.

First of all, the Zawadzki's were scheduled for a 10:30 p.m. shift but didn't start until 11:20 and didn't finish their set until 2 a.m.

Meczynski, who bowled anchor, described the final frames of the third game this way to Norm Warner of The News in July of 1999:

"In the 10th, Rich strikes out and Shaun gets a strike, nine pins and a spare. Stan strikes out for 269, so Stacy's up and I'm in the back talking to Shaun and wondering what do I do?

"The last two times on the right lane (in the sixth and eight frames) I crossed over and made adjustments on both shots. I strike in the seventh and in the ninth I get a seven count and a spare. But on the right lane I'm lost.

"Stacy gets up and we have a chance to take the lead. He throws three of the greatest shots he could have thrown and he strikes out. I wish we had it on tape.

"Now, I get up there and have to strike out for us to win. I asked Stan: 'What should I do?' Move five boards? And he says: 'Yes.' But I think he was a little nervous and just said that to agree with me.

"I did move five boards left and hoped God was with me. When you make adjustments, if you don't make a good shot, you don't get a good read.

"I strike on the first ball and everybody is going crazy, but you don't want to get too excited until you're done with what you have to do. On the second ball, I strike and I tried hard to contain myself. I struck on the last ball and that enables us to take the lead."

Cielepak, who formed the team for the tournament, led with a 727. Meczynski shot 687, Stacy 677, Sterner 671 and Tomaka 572.

Although he was low scorer, Tomaka made major contribution, in a roller-coaster of a game in the finale. He shot 213 in that game, starting with five strikes. Then, he left the Greek Church (five pins) twice in a row. After a strike in the eighth, his shot slipped out of his hand and went to the left gutter but he recovered to spare and then struck out.

It was the second ABC title for Cielepak, who bowled with Doug Heim's Niagara Frontier Bowling Supply team that won in Niagara Falls in 1983. He also put together the Zawadzki team that finished second in 1988, ninth in 1992 and seventh in 1993.

Cielepak chose his teams carefully.

"To get 10 guys working together is difficult," Cielepak told Warner. He put the 1999 team together "because they were good shot-makers, not just good bowlers."

Kristina wins NY Masters

Move over Liz Johnson. You're not the only Western New York female bowler to take the measure of a top male competitor.

Kristina Szczerbinski of North Tonawanda, 28, defeated PBA pro Brad Angelo of Lockport, 444-422, in the two-game total pinfall final to win the 28th New York State Masters Championship last Sunday at Allie Brandt Lanes in Lockport.

Szczerbinski, the 2016 Western New York Queens champion and 2016 Greater Buffalo USBC Association Female Bowler of the Year, struck on her first ball in the 10th to become the first women to win the scratch singles tournament. She earned the $2,000 first prize and paid entry to the 2019 USBC Masters.

She took a seven-pin lead with a 218 in the first game. Angelo started with four strikes in the second game to tie the match. Szczerbinski, a left-hander, doubled in the seventh and eighth while Angelo was unable to strike in the last three frames. Szczerbinski finished with a 226 game while Angelo shot a second 211 and took the $1,000.

Angelo, who owns Brad Angelo Lanes in Lockport, crossed town to bowl in the Masters at Allie Brandt, which happened to be one of the places where he first learned the game and honed his talents. He bowled his first 200 game and his first 600 series there.

Szczerbinski qualified 10th for the Masters with 1,066 for five games. Then in match play she defeated Jacob Rivers of Albany, 444-329; Shannon Sellers of Long Island, 380-378; Brett Cunningham of Clay, 452-447, and Stephano Cirrito of Niagara Falls, 408-394.

Angelo qualified fifth with 1,066. After a bye into the second round, he triumphed over Mark Scuderi of Rochester, 466-435; Alex Cavagnaro of Long Island, 432-427, and Ryan Ciminelli of Clarence, 488-406.

Ciminelli led the qualifying with 1,234. Dan Vick of Rochester was second with 1,186.

The tournament drew 110 entrants. The top nine drew a one-round bye.

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