By Warren Rappleyea
Sayreville War Memorial High School’s boys bowling team ended its season on the highest of high notes — winning the NJSIAA Tournament of Champions (TOC) in an exciting five-game series against Brick Memorial High School Feb. 19 at Carolier Lanes in North Brunswick.
With pressure in the final frame, the Bombers’ Mark Kozinski calmly rolled a strike to win game five and the match for the Blue and Gray. Sayreville was down in games, 2-1, but came back to win the next two games, 203-183 and 211-189, to bring home its fourth TOC crown.
“We won the last game on the left lane and neither team had won on that lane,” Bombers coach Mike Weinert said. “We definitely saved our best for last. It was an emotional day for all of us. The season really had a different feel, and it went way beyond bowling.”
Senior Mike Campo’s father, Vincent, passed away on Christmas Day after fighting cancer. The elder Campo was a fixture at Sayreville matches and practices, and Weinert even included him in a few team meetings over the years.
After a disappointing second-place finish behind East Brunswick High School in the Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) Tournament, the Bombers ended up second to Woodbridge High School in Central Jersey Group III. The second-place showing, however, qualified Sayreville for the overall Group III tournament.
Knowing the team had dedicated the season to his father’s memory, Mike Campo asked Weinert if he could speak to the team. The coach agreed and Campo talked with his teammates following practice Feb. 18.
“I normally like to keep things light before the state tournament, and we do some fun things like have an opposite-hand challenge,” Weinert said. “After practice, Mike [Campo] thanked his teammates for all of their support and dedication this year. It was awesome and it got everyone focused.”
Nevertheless, the Bombers started slowly the Group III tournament, which preceded the TOC. Sayreville found itself in fifth place after the first game.
“Our guys knew they were down to what could be their last 20 shots of the season, and they had to make them count,” Weinert said.
With Ryan Johnson’s 701 series leading the way, Sayreville roared to the Group III title and earned the top seed in the TOC. Zack Wranovics ended up with 672 pins, Kozinski finished with 645 pins, Chris DeoCampo had a 633-pin series and Lucas Leandro ended up with 618 pins.
Weinert’s team squared off against Group I champion Roselle Park High School in the semifinals and came away with a 3-0 victory in the Baker-style event.
“Going in, we felt like we could win if we bowled to our potential,” Weinert said. “Looking back, our loss to East Brunswick in the GMC tourney basically came down to two shots. When we played Woodbridge, two of their guys had a phenomenal day. Our [goal] is always to get to the bigger stage, and our guys bowled their best when the pressure was on.”