Webber International men’s team wins 2019 Intercollegiate Team Championship

DAYTON, Ohio – Webber International senior Matt Russo has made numerous clutch shots throughout his career but saved his best for the bright lights of CBS Sports Network to help Webber capture the men’s Intercollegiate Team Championship title.

Webber, the No. 5 seed, swept sixth-seeded Lawrence Tech, 3-0, in the best-of-five format at Poelking Lanes South. CBS Sports Network televised the final match of the 2019 Intercollegiate Team Championships on Tuesday night.

After a strong start to Game 1, in which Webber led by as many as 24 pins, two late opens from the Warriors allowed Lawrence Tech an opportunity to steal the opening game.

But, Russo, the National Collegiate Bowling Coaches Association Most Valuable Player, wasn’t going to make it easy for Lawrence Tech. He tossed three strikes in the 10th frame to force Lawrence Tech anchor Kyle McGrath to double to win. McGrath buried the first shot but left a 4 pin on the second delivery as Webber took Game 1, 179-176.

Russo’s clutch final frame was indicative of his performance throughout match play leading up to the TV finals and would set the tone for the remainder of the match.

“It’s kind of how I felt all week,” said Russo, who also was named the International Bowling Media Association Bowler of the Year. “I like the clutch moments. I just kept telling the guys to give me a shot. When I’m really confident, I somehow find a way to come through. When something means so much to me, I find a way to dig deep and come through. It’s the type of bowling that I like to pride myself on.”

In Game 2, Lawrence Tech again had a chance to shut out Webber in the final frame, but an open frame gave Russo a chance. Needing to fill 19 pins for the win, Russo struck on his first offering, left a 3-7 split on the second shot and avoided a tie by clipping the 3 pin on the fill for a 150-149 victory.

In Game 3, Webber sandwiched an open frame and a spare between six strikes during the first eight frames, but Lawrence Tech wouldn’t go quietly, despite some struggles. After a strike in the ninth, Lawrence Tech filled 20 pins in the 10th frame to set the stage for Webber.

Needing a mark to secure the Helmer Cup, Russo stepped up in the 10th frame and buried a strike on his first offering on the way to a 209-181 victory to give the Webber men’s team its second ITC title.

Russo, named the ITC Most Valuable Player, knew there was only one way to end his career and he wasn’t focused on anything else entering the tournament.

“I wanted to win badly,” Russo said. “It’s my senior year. With the way everything has gone during the last couple of years, this meant a lot for me to win this tournament, especially with the season I had. It meant a lot to go out on top.

“I just wanted to have fun this week. That’s what I’ve done the whole season. I just wanted to have fun and enjoy the last parts of college bowling with my teammates. I felt there was no other fitting way to end.”

Head coach Del Warren has seen Russo’s clutch shots for Webber throughout the years and shared what he will miss most about Russo.

“Well, he’s done that his entire career,” Warren said. “He’s a really special athlete and thrives under pressure. I told him yesterday what I’m going to miss most is watching you get set up in the 10th frame and throwing some of the most unbelievable strikes under pressure I’ve ever seen. I’m really going to miss that a lot.”

Along with Russo, the Warriors’ ITC team consisted of Evan Baranecky, Adam Glickman, Tom Hankey, Brennan Haugh, Nash Medico, Maxx Tamburrino and Adam Zimmerman.

Joining Russo on the men’s all-tournament team were McGrath, Pete Vergos of Calumet, Josh Pate of Wisconsin-Whitewater and Bryan Hahlen of McKendree. The Chris Stoehr Sportsmanship Award winner went to Wichita State’s Wesley Low.

The 16 men’s and 16 women’s teams at the ITC qualified by finishing in the top four at one of four sectional events held in March. At the national tournament, teams bowled 24 Baker qualifying games to determine seeding for the double-elimination bracket, which featured best-of-seven Baker matches leading up to the title matches, where best-of-five finals.

BowlTV.com provided live coverage of qualifying and match-play rounds leading up to the televised finals.

Visit BOWL.com/ITC for more information on the Intercollegiate Team Championships.

At Poelking Lanes South, Dayton, Ohio

Webber International def. Lawrence Tech, 3-0 (179-176, 150-149, 209-181)