Joey Yannuzzi “loves studying and knowing things,” said Joe Slavik, Yannuzzi’s bowling coach at Sayreville War Memorial High School.
When Yannuzzi turned 17 years old, his dad offered to buy him a car. Yannuzzi turned down the offer and asked for a computer instead.
“I don’t know many kids that would turn down the car,” Slavik said. “He was worried about his education.”
When the senior wants something, he chases it with relentless focus and energy. He really wanted the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group 3 sectional tournament title on Feb. 9 at Bowlero in North Brunswick.
And he led Sayreville to the Central Jersey, Group 3 championship by practicing at Bowlero before the tournament.
Sayreville finished first out of nine teams with a team score of 2,916. Yannuzzi recorded the Bombers’ highest individual score, 650, and qualified for the NJSIAA Individual Tournament.
“He’s usually not great at Bowlero,” Slavik said. “So he went there, studied the lanes and it made a big difference.”
Sayreville bowled at Bowlero four times before Feb. 9. Each time, the alley oiled its lanes with a different pattern.
Every alley has a method of applying oil to its lanes, which affects the path of the ball. Some alleys apply oil more to the outside and others do it more to the inside. Bowlero changes its pattern more than the average place.
The new patterns surprised Yannuzzi in previous matches, so before the state sectional tournament, he decided to prepare himself.
The senior went to Bowlero three times in the week leading up to Feb. 9. His process worked.
“He figured out the oil pattern,” Slavik said. “Then he was our most consistent bowler in the tournament.”
Early in his career, Yannuzzi was not the most talented bowler. His friend and Sayreville teammate, senior Peter Lawrence, said Yannuzzi struggled in middle school. Then, as a freshman and sophomore at Sayreville, he scored in the low 100s.
But Yannuzzi was not alone. Lawrence and the other Bombers were posting the same types of scores.
They all needed to improve, so they started a new tradition: Sunday night hangouts at Majestic Lanes Bowling Alley in Woodbridge.
On Sunday nights, Majestic Lanes lets locals bowl as many games as they want for $10 a person. Through weeks and years of low pressure games, Yannuzzi and the Bombers developed together.
By their junior year, they were scoring in the high 100s and low 200s. As seniors this winter, they won a state sectional trophy and Yannuzzi became one of the best bowlers in New Jersey.
“Basically we just stopped thinking about what we were doing,” said Sayreville senior bowler Jon Tabacco. “We just had fun and bowled.”
The Sayreville seniors ended their team career on Feb. 14 at Bowlero, in the NJSIAA Group 3 championship. Sayreville placed 10th in the Group 3 tournament with a team score of 2,449.
But the Bombers were not dismayed by the loss. They still enjoyed a memorable senior campaign.
“It was a bonding experience,” Lawrence said.
Yannuzzi finished his high school career with the individual state championship on Feb. 15 at Bowlero. He did not advance past the first qualifying round, though he gave a valiant effort.
All of the Bombers did.
In the week leading up to the team group championship and the individual tournament, Yannuzzi and his teammates practiced at the North Brunswick alley, trying to learn the latest oil pattern.
“We used four different lanes, too,” Slavik said. “Every pattern was different.”
Now that the season is over, Yannuzzi will start applying his curiosity and discipline to larger pursuits. He is planning on attending the Stevens Institute of Technology, in Hoboken, to study education.
“He’s a very smart, studious student,” Slavik said.