By Randy Whalen
For four years, Sandburg had a top performer in lefty two-handed roller Cameron Crowe.
Crowe capped his outstanding high school career last season with a second-place individual finish at the state finals. He's currently bowling at St. Ambrose University.
Last weekend, another lefty two-handed bowler burst on the scene for the Eagles.
That’s freshman Gabe Castro, who finished in the top 10 at the 16th annual Oak Forest Bengal Bowling Invite held Dec. 7 at Oak Forest Bowl.
Castro was the top performer for Sandburg as he rolled a 1,251 total to tie for eighth place with Richards senior Matt LaBonte, and only 11 pins behind fifth-place finisher Malik Brandon (1,262) of Hillcrest.
"A two-handed lefty, go-figure," Sandburg coach Jeff Kwilose said, while smiling, of Castro. "Gabe has been averaging 210 as a freshman. Of course it's hard to replace Cameron, but Gabe has been a solid bowler for us."
He helped the Eagles (5,639 six-game total) to a fifth-place finish. Lockport (6,093) was the team champion, pulling away from runner-up Lincoln-Way West (6,025) at the end.
"I was hitting my mark consistently," Castro said. "And my teammates helped."
Just over 100 pins separated the third through eighth spots. Host Oak Forest (5,676) rallied to take third, followed by Plainfield Central (5,647). Reavis (5,610), Lincoln-Way Central (5,585) and Richards (5,570) rounded out the top eight at the 16-team tournament.
The final eight spots went to Lincoln-Way East (5,360), Bremen (5,328), Hillcrest (5,315), Oak Lawn (5,194), T.F. North (5,129), Romeoville (4,990), Chicago Christian (4,578) and Argo (4,386).
Individually, a pair of sophomores placed first and second. Those were Gavin Gucwa (1,321) from Lockport and Aidan Healy (1,308) from Lincoln-Way West. Tyler Misch (1,301) from Lincoln-Way Central was third and Cameron Jablonski (1,285) from Lincoln-Way West was fourth.
Sandburg started the day with a 1,044 in the first game and was in third after the morning session, but an 815 in the fifth game dropped the Eagles out of contention.
"We've been solid," Kwilose said of the Eagles, who are 6-2 in dual meets and have placed in the top 5 at every tournament in which they’ve competed. “We just need to find a fifth bowler. That's what we are looking for. If we get that consistency and things come together, we will be fine. We have the ability to put up a 1,050 to 1,100 game. we just have to stay away from the sub-900 game."
The rest of the scores for Sandburg were junior Timmy Novak (1,155), senior Alex Grezlovski (1,149), senior Matt Bartlett (918), sophomore Joe Zellinger, (737) and senior Tyler Zellinger (429).
"We've been doing pretty good," Castro said. "We are just hoping to stay consistent for the regional and sectional."
The rest of the field
Reavis was paced by junior Matt Smith (1,202), along with seniors Justin Styler (1,161), Xavier Deluna (1,086), Omar Abuelhija (1,059) and junior Paolo Rolle (977). The Rams, who will look to qualify for state for a fourth straight season next month, had a high score of 1,030 in the fourth game.
In addition to LaBonte, Richards’ bowlers included his younger brother, sophomore Danny LaBonte (1,154), as well as junior Nick Schopper (1,124), senior Owen Szarley (1,065) and junior Blake Attig (820). The Bulldogs bookended games of 1,036 to open and 1,041 to close the day, but a 772 in the fifth game cost them a higher finish.
Richards went to state last season for the first time since 2012, and placed ninth. The LaBonte brothers were the top two placers on that squad and hope to lead the Bulldogs back.
"We've been doing well and helping each other out," Matt LaBonte said of the team. "I expect a good outcome and to take home some hardware [in the postseason]. Placing high in the state is again the goal for the whole team."
Oak Lawn was led by a 1,162 game from freshman Ramiro Garcia.
Senior Dylan VanderVeer (912) paced Chicago Christian and junior Martin Gomez (1,002) led Argo.