WEST ORANGE, NJ — To be the best high school boys bowler in the state, it takes a lot of practice and a strong support system.
That’s the formula that propelled West Orange High School recent graduate Kieryn Knox.
In February, Knox capped a stellar season and high school career when he captured the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association’s boys individual championship at Bowlero North Brunswick.
Knox was on a roll, pun intended, entering the state individual finals. Two days earlier, he rolled a perfect 300 score as part of a 747 series to lead WOHS to a fourth-place finish in the Group 4 boys team finals, also at Bowlero North Brunswick.
In the state individual finals, Knox rolled a 693 series in the first round and a 627 series in the second round, in a field of 100 bowlers, to finish as the No. 4 seed. Only the top 18 out of the 100 bowlers advanced to the second round.
In the stepladder finals, Knox defeated No. 5 Henry Hecht, of Howell, 258-238; Matt Reynolds, of Scotch Plains–Fanwood, 209-191; and No. 2 seed KC Campbell, of Seton Hall Prep, 215-183. In the championship match, Knox defeated No. 1 seed Jake Diaz, of Howell, 248-214.
For Knox, it was especially gratifying to win the state championship after having finished in fourth place as a sophomore and then having the tournament canceled in his junior season due to the pandemic.
“It was a pretty crazy experience,” said Knox about winning the state title, in an interview with the West Orange Chronicle on July 25. “I was really happy that I was able to come away with a state championship. It was something I really looked forward to, especially (after my) junior year, since we didn’t have a state tournament. Having an opportunity to finally compete in my last year meant a lot to me.”
Earlier in the season, Knox defended his Essex County Tournament boys individual title; he had won the ECT crown as a sophomore. Class of 2022 WOHS graduate Taylor Mills won the girls 2022 ECT title. The ECT was not held last year due to the pandemic.
Knox started bowling at a young age when his father, Chris, was in a league at Eagle Rock Lanes in West Orange. When Knox was 5 years old, he signed up for a league. He then joined a league at Jersey Lanes in Linden at age 9.
Knox played at WOHS all four years. Bill Urbanski was the Mountaineers head coach for Knox’s freshman and sophomore seasons. Adam Miller has been the head coach for the past two seasons.
Knox said his parents and high school coaches were strong influences in his development.
“My parents have always pushed me to be my best, whether that’s in school or on the lanes, and my coaches felt the same way — pushed me to be my best,” Knox said.
Knox’s coaches “were always there when I needed them, whether it was an email or a phone call away,” he said.
When asked what helped him become a great bowler, Knox said, “I would say lots of practice and a lot of coaching, especially in my high school years. I did a lot of practicing. I had coaching, but I really took it up to the next level when I really got serious about it. I really started practicing more with my coaches and really started learning a lot more, which helped my game.”
In an interview with the West Orange Chronicle on July 25, Miller said it was “an absolute pleasure” to coach Knox.
“Kieryn was another coach for our team, really,” Miller said. “Having him was very helpful.”
Miller said the team this year had three returning four-year players and one female bowler in Mills. But the Mountaineers also had several young players. “To start our season, it was definitely a little rough,” he said. “We had our ups and downs.”
In previous years, the team achieved success, particularly in the 2020-21 season with a senior-dominated lineup. But unfortunately, in that season, the tournaments were canceled because of the pandemic. “We had a group of serious bowlers, but it was really unfortunate, because we never got to showcase them,” said Miller, a 2012 WOHS graduate who lettered in bowling and baseball.
Knox was the only returning varsity starter this past season. “He has so much more knowledge about this game. He even taught me a lot,” said Miller.
Knox was also great when it came to leading by example, Miller noted. “Kieryn was one of those head-down, let’s-get-to-work kind of guys,” he said. “He wasn’t really a vocal person; he’s not really a vocal leader, not until he really needed to. But Kieryn was one to lead by example. He would pull a bowler aside and say, ‘Hey listen. This is what I’m noticing.’ Having Kieryn on the team and him being able to talk to that person was huge.”
Knox said he has modeled his game after professional Australian bowler Jason Belmonte. “He was the reason I converted to the two-handed style,” Knox said.
Knox now is looking forward to continuing his bowling career at the Savannah College of Art and Design, in Savannah, Ga., where he will major in advertising and business management. Knox is looking forward to learning creative advertising.
Knox also was impressed by SCAD’s bowling program.
“I am really looking forward to it,” said Knox. “I went down there right before my senior year started. I had talked to the coach (Michael McNeely) there. There is a tournament that happens every July, and they had a college convention, so I went with my parents, talked to a few different schools, coaches, and I found the Savannah coach and I talked to him. He was a really nice guy and showed a lot of interest. Come September, I went down there for a campus visit and I looked at the different programs that they had and I was interested in advertising and I really liked the program they had for advertising, and I also liked the coach, so I thought the school would be a really good fit for me. I came back a second time for another campus visit and I got to practice with the team and I liked the guys on the team and that’s what made me finally make the decision to go there.”
Knox said his goals are to “keep growing as a player and keep learning the game as I go, because the college environment is a lot different than high school. I’m really looking forward to that, and, hopefully by the time I graduate, (I will) be able to join the professional tour.”
So what advice would he give to a novice bowler?
“I would tell them to do a lot of research,” Knox said. “There are a lot of informative YouTube videos out there that can teach you a lot about the game. There are a lot of things that people don’t know about the game of bowling. Between that and if you have social media, reach out to some of the players out there that are being successful. Most of them are open and willing to answer any questions as much as they can.”
Photo Courtesy of Darryl Vines.