A bowler winning an individual title as a sophomore is an impressive enough feat, but doing so in wire-to-wire fashion is even more stunning.
The bowler responsible for the spectacular performance is Eastern Regional's Thomas Burns, who rolled the high game of the day and sat in first place after the first round before expanding the lead in the second round.
For his efforts, Burns earned a the No. 1 seed and a bye to the final round of the stepladder tournament, where he rolled a 193 that was well below his average but still enough to come away with a title at the NJSIAA Individual Championships on Friday at Bowlero in North Brunswick.
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Burns' high game of 277 propelled him to a 727 series and the top spot after the opening round, which he built on by rolling a 736 that was the high series of any bowler on the day.
The sophomore standout opted to take minimal practice throws in the hour or so between the end of the second qualifying round and the start of the championship match.
"What I usually do is save my energy until the actual match," said Burns on the thought process behind sitting while most of the other stepladder participants threw practice shots. "I wanted to save a little bit."
The strategy appeared to have backfired early in the title match, as Burns knocked down nine pins on his first throw before missing the 10-pin and leaving the first frame open. He was able to recover nicely, however, bouncing back and coming away with a 193-184 win over Roselle's Elizjah Boone.
"The 10-pin in a title match, I always miss it," said Burns with a laugh on his shaky start.
"The first five frames, they said I looked really nervous, and I was. But on the second frame, I made it, so..." continue the sophomore with a shrug.
Burns made it to the individual tournament as a freshman last season, but performed below his standards and failed to make the cut.
"I learned to make every shot count," said Burns on what he took from his disappointing finish last year. "Just keep my calm, pretty much."
Second-seeded Boone earned his spot in the championship round by defeating Jackson Liberty's Preston Williams, who secured his spot in the top-five with a 300 in the second qualifying round, the only perfect game of the day.
Boone left two frames open in the semifinal but was able to cap off his round with three strikes followed by a spare to defeat Williams 194-188.
"I just try to stay in my head," said Boone on his mindset heading into the semifinal round against a fellow senior. "Remember what I do in my rituals, stay in my head, focus on myself. Just self-discipline, more or less."
Williams moved onto the semifinal by rolling an impressive 267 to take down five-seed Kieryn Knox, who pushed past fourth-seeded Ramesh Perasud of Hudson Catholic 259-174 in the opening round of the stepladder tournament.
West Orange's Knox had one of the most impressive second rounds of the day, making the first cut by just five pins and sitting 41 pins outside of the top five. While most bowlers faltered a bit in the second qualifying round, Knox thrived, putting together a 729 in the second round to vault up the leaderboard and earn a spot in the stepladder.
5-Kieryn Knox, West Orange def. 4-Ramesh Perasud, Hudson Catholic, 259-174
3-Preston Williams, Jackson Liberty def. 5-Kieryn Knox, West Orange, 267-196
2-Elizjah Boone, Roselle def. 3-Preston Williams, Jackson Liberty, 194-188
1-Thomas Burns, Eastern def. 2-Elizjah Boone, Roselle, 193-184
SECOND QUALIFYING ROUND (top five advance)
1-Thomas Burns, Eastern, 1,463 (727-736). 2-Elizjah Boone, Roselle, 1,412 (694-718). 3-Preston Williams, Jackson Liberty, 1,393 (685-708). 4-Ramesh Perasud, Hudson Catholic, 1,383 (692-691). 5-Kieryn Knox, West Orange, 1,380 (651-729). 6-Luis Torres, Roselle, 1,373 (706-667). 7-Josh Fylypczuk, Woodbridge, 1,366 (655-711). 8-Henry Hecht, Howell, 1,343 (656-687). 9-Joey Maurer, St. Joseph (Met.), 1,318 (648-670). 10-Ralph Carbone, Colts Neck, 1,303 (662-641).
FIRST QUALIFYING ROUND (top 18 advance)
1-Thomas Burns, Eastern, 727. 2-Luis Torres, Roselle, 706. 3-Elizjah Boone, Roselle, 694. 4-Matt Xiques, Barnegat, 694. 5-Ramesh Perasud, Hudson Catholic, 692. 6-Preston Williams, Jackson Liberty, 685. 7-Dominic Betar, Manchester Township, 675. 8-Matt Danielson, Sussex Tech, 675. 9-Michael Gurzynski, Carteret, 669. 10-Jon Valko, Hunterdon Central, 663. 11-Ralph Carbone, Colts Neck, 662. 12-Trey Thogode, Sussex Tech, 661. 13-Joe Tedesco, Howell, 657. 14-Henry Hecht, Howell, 656. 15-Josh Fylypczuk, Woodbridge, 655. 16-Kieryn Knox, West Orange, 651. 17-Joey Maurer, St. Joseph (Met.), 648. 18-R.J. Utter, West Milford, 646*. 19-Ray Schmidt, Lakeland, 646. 20-Nick Farah, North Brunswick, 644. 21-Nino Polanco Jr., Passaic, 644. 22-Kyle Chirichello, Brick Township, 643. 23-Brandon Bohn-Palmer, Howell, 640. 24-Zachary Jordan, Wayne Hills, 639. 25-Jordan Stoveken, Woodbridge, 638.
*Utter advanced to second round after winning two-frame roll-off over Schmidt, 38-26.
HIGH GAME (from first qualifying round)
1-Thomas Burns, Eastern, 277. 2-Matt Xiques, Barnegat, 268. 3-Matt Danielson, Sussex Tech, 267.