by ADAM GRUENEWALD
The seventh official 300 game at Lano Lanes in NYA came from an unlikely person this past Saturday, Jan. 25.
Matt Thom, a 17-year-old Waconia High School junior, rolled the 300 game in youth league. Thom is far from a newcomer to the sport, though, earning back-to-back Mid Central Conference MVPs the past two seasons for the Central bowling team.
Still ,the 300 he scored in his second game of the series is a substantial feat.
“It’s a big thing,” he said. “It’s like getting a hole-in-one in golf.”
Thom rolled 17 strikes in a row total, closing the 10th frame in his first game with a spare/strike and adding four more strikes at the beginning of his third game. The 704 series remains short of his career high of 756.
Thom first started bowling with his dad, Jeff “Jingles” Thom of Cologne, when he was 5 or 6 years old and now bowls at most three times a week.
“My dad’s been doing it for 30-some years and I follow in his footsteps,” he said. “I got it from him.”
In addition to the love of bowling, Thom also got his nickname “Chewy” from his dad from either the Matthew-Mattchew variation or from Chewbacca.
“I think because of Star Wars,” said Thom. “I watched it a lot. Probably every day I would watch it.”
With the 300, Thom has something his dad doesn’t have, but his dad does have the higher series with a 796.
“He’s got a higher series on me, but I’ve got a higher game,” said Thom, admitting the rivalry exists. “Sometimes we get into it.”
His dad rolls down and in style, while Thom is more of a cranker, so Thom said who wins mostly depends on the lane.
In addition to Lano Lanes in NYA, Thom said he enjoys bowling at Texa Tonka Lanes in St. Louis Park and Louisville Lanes in Shakopee.
Thom also has another 300 game which he rolled in practice at Lano Lanes about a year ago, but last Saturday was special because he surpassed his league high of 269.
Looking back on last Saturday, Thom said he felt confident heading into the second game, building off of his strong finish in the first game.
“When I had five or six in a row I felt good,” he said. “I knew right away I was going to be in that 250 range, up there. It just felt really good bowling… I was on a roll.”
Thom is not a newcomer to pressure as there were some tense moments in the high school bowling season as he vied for his second Mid Central Conference MVPs. The MVPs are determined by an individual’s fill percentage, or percentage of spares or strike in each frame, in the team sport. Thom said he tried to focus on his individual game as he and Jack Bruggemeier of Watertown battled in the last weeks of the season. Thom edged out Bruggemeier, 81.74 to 80 percent.
“I was paying attention to it a lot, but my dad told me not to,” he said. “It just throws me off my game and gets me nervous about it, because I keep watching him. At the end of the season I stopped bothering about it.”
Just like during the final stretch of the season, the support of his teammates last Saturday helped ease his nerves. While high school teammates Curtis Urness and Peter Schwichtenberg were not there, he credited them and Maddie Farrell, who was there, for helping his game grow.
“It’s building the friendships and getting to know them more,” he said. “If they need help bowling, we help each other out.”
Thom’s game drew the attention of those around him, including Steve Bohn, who relayed the last three strikes by phone to Thom’s dad, who knew the result of the last one with the roar of those in attendance.
Thom also called his mom, Jodi Drees of NYA, but didn’t at first reach her so he told he when he arrived home. The news also spread via Facebook since Thom was texting his girlfriend, Morgan Samuelson, during the feat.
Thom admitted he may have jinxed himself.
“I kind of didn’t want to text her at first, but I was locked in and knew I was pretty good,” he said.
In addition to his sister, Kayla Thom, 23, and other family and friends, Thom credited Lano Lanes owner and Central coach Curt Wilson, as well as Bohn and Ken Silvernagel for their instruction and guidance. He also gave credit to his dad’s friend, Dave Theis of Shakopee, who gives him bowling balls, and Carl Fietek of Eden Prairie who drilled his ball.
“I have to thank a lot of people for it,” he said. “I just want to thank my dad, my ball guy, my family and friends for supporting me.”
Looking ahead, Thom said he wants to enter an engineering program degree in college, but bowling is on his mind, too.
“I’m hoping there’s bowling alley somewhere so I can go and do it,” he said, adding that he might pursue a college scholarship as well. “I want to keep bowling. I want to keep that going so I don’t forget when I go to college for four years and forget what I’m doing.”
Bowling-wise, Thom said his next goal is an 800 series, but also wanted to spread the game to others by teaching.
“I would love to do that,” he said. “Like come back and help Curt with high school or something like that, or come back for this junior league and help them up. I would come back and help people and teach them. I would love to.”
Contact Adam Gruenewald at email@example.com.