Blue Devils boys’ bowlers Reese Hunt, left, Trey Zaggi, Justin Macellaro and Matt Abelowitz at practice at Slocum’s Bowl-O-Drome on Feb. 7, 2017. (Photo by Suzette J. Lucas.)

The more pins, the better for Chase Springett.

Two years ago, the Ewing High School junior was pinning opponents as a wrestler for the Blue Devils wrestling team. He started last year on the wrestling team again, but left it for another passion—knocking down as many pins as possible for the Ewing boys bowling team. This year, he competed for both teams in the same season.

“I figured it would be pretty difficult but I was up for the challenge,” Springett said. “Knowing I couldn’t go to wrestling as much, it was kind of hard because you have to keep yourself in condition. I was still able to win matches for both teams.”

Springett went 5-3 at 152 pounds in limited matches for the wrestling team this year. “Wrestling is really tough,” Springett said. “Not being able to practice as much as all the other wrestlers, and having to go out there and wrestle without a lot of practice is tough for me. I enjoy the wrestling team and the people and that’s why I do it.”

Springett was an even more critical piece of the Ewing bowling team that finished 17-1 and took third in the Central Jersey Group 2 championships on Feb. 11. He enjoyed a new high game of 267, and was consistently one of the top bowlers for the Blue Devils.

“He did bowl better this year,” said Ewing head coach Dave Angebranndt. “He definitely stepped up. I think it was just maturity and bowling experience. Like every sport, the more you do it, the better off you’re going to be. He bowled outside of the season. He was bowling with the guys on his own. The more reps you have on the lane, the better you’re going to be at making the adjustment.”

Springett is already considering juggling the two sports again next year. This year was the first time that he did it for the high school, but he’d done it before just as he was getting more serious about bowling.

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“Bowling was always like a recreational thing for me, I’d just go with my friends,” Springett said. “And then in eighth grade, one of my friends told me about the junior leagues they were holding at Slocum’s, and I joined. At the same time, I was wrestling for the middle school team so I was still doing both at the time. I kind of had an idea of what it was like to do both.

“From then on, from the junior leagues, I got interested in bowling and I started getting better and once I quit wrestling sophomore year I was interested in joining the bowling team. They needed bowlers and they were winning sectionals every year. They lost a lot of bowlers and needed some talent.”

Last year, he found out it was possible to do both in the same season.

“It was the first time I had an athlete or seen someone play two sports in a season,” Angebranndt said. “Up until last year, I wasn’t aware the NJSIAA allows you to participate in a non-contact sport and contact sport in the same season. Once I found out, I knew he wrestled as well. There were weeks, he’d go to three days a week to wrestling and two to me. Or he’d come to matches and go two days to them.

“I think he managed it well, and I think he’s going to try to do it again next year,” he added. “We’ll see where his mindset is once he gets toward the winter.”

Springett was happy to have the chance to help both teams. Both have the qualities of individual competition that goes toward the team score.

“Wrestling, you can depend on 13 other guys,” Springett said. “Bowling, you can only depend on four other guys. Wrestling, you can have 10 winning and three that lose and you’ll still win, but in bowling if three of your bowlers are bowling bad, two of us can’t carry the whole team. That’s why we really have to support each other and bowl as a team if we want to win. We all have to bring each other up and not let someone fall off and keep them motivated.”

Chase Springett

Springett came in plenty motivated this season for bowling. Last year, he had little practice before the season because he had expected to just be wrestling. Since he stopped for the season, he put more time into bowling and this year came in better prepared with everything he needed to do to be better.

“Keeping it on the lane, hitting my mark, making my spares, that was a really big part of it,” Springett said.

On top of being a dual-sport athlete in one season, Springett is even a bit more unique in that he is a two-handed bowler.

“When I was in the junior league at Slocum’s I tried it and it seemed easier for me so I worked on it and taught myself how to bowl consistently two-handed and it made me better,” Springett recalled. “Also, I was inspired at the time by Jason Belmonte who is a professional two-handed bowler.”

Angebranndt saw a more dedicated Springett this year. He was more serious about improving his bowling this year, and his time spent on it in the offseason paid off.

“With him being a two-handed bowler, he needs to be consistent with where he’s releasing the ball,” Angebranndt said. “He understood that more this year. Last year, he would throw it and hope for the best. This year, he knew where he had to be, and the terminology I would say to him and he kind of got it this year.”

Springett was one of five bowlers who returned from the varsity team last year, and that gave the Blue Devils high aspirations for this year. He and Justin Macellaro were juniors, and Ewing also had a trio of seniors with Matthew Abelowitz, Reese Hunt and Trey Zagi. Kyle Briggs also appeared in numerous matches.

In the end, they came up just 79 pins shy of the second and final spot to qualify out of sectionals for the state tournament. St. Joseph Metuchen won and Ocean Township was second. Ewing finished with 2,814 pins for third, eight pins ahead of fourth-place South Plainsfield.

“It was really heartbreaking,” Springett said. “That group of guys, we really wanted to go to states. We wanted to make Ewing look better. We’ve been struggling the last couple years with the bowling team. We had a chance this year. We didn’t show up in the second game and going into the third game, we got some momentum going, but we didn’t make our spares and things happened. It was tough.”

Ewing maintains sky-high standards. They were state champions when Angebranndt himself bowled there, and they’ve never stopped shooting for another title.

“I know what it takes,” Angebranndt said. “The kids know what it takes. When I put forth that mentality in them, you don’t want to consider it a loss when you don’t make the state tournament, but in the history of the program it’s unfortunate to be a team that does make the state tournament.”

Overall it was a successful season” he added. “Unfortunately it was done sooner than they wanted, they had high expectations of themselves.”

The Blue Devils were still 17-1, their lone loss coming to Burlington Township on an off day, and they finished first in the Liberty Division of the Burlington County Scholastic League. They aim to return to the top of the league next year and try to qualify for states, though they will have a different look after graduating three of their five starters.

“The seniors stayed positive,” Angebranndt said. “Overall, they have the qualities you look for. Reese’s maturity level has grown dramatically in the last two years. So has Trey Zagi. He’s stepped up to be a pretty significant member of the team coming down the stretch. It’s going to be unfortunate losing them.”

Springett is optimistic about keeping the bowling team at the top of the league and remaining a strong contender in sectionals.

“We have a JV team, and there’s a few kids on there that I think we can work with and try to rebuild,” Springett said. “But for the most part, me and Justin are going to have to come back and be strong leaders of the team. I think we have a chance. There’s no doubt. Every year, Ewing is up there for bowling.”

Angebranndt doesn’t think that’s any accident. “Chip Slocum does a great job over at Slocum’s with the junior leagues,” he said. “I give him a lot of accolades for our success as well. Without having a guy like that helping the feeder system, helping the junior league teams as they go through, it brings interest up when they get into high school.”

Angebranndt said that of the younger kids who are on the JV team are going to be key contributors. “Because of losing the three seniors, I’m going to need some of them stepping up and taking their place but establishing their own role.”

He’s also counting on Springett to be an even more consistent bowler when he returns, whether he’s wrestling again or not. Springett would like to do both again, but he’s already starting to think ahead to the spring season and another kind of pin placement.

“I’m on the golf team,” he said.