History of the GCIBL
The Greater Cleveland Interscholastic Bowling League held its first day of competition on December 9, 1940, at Linsz Recreation in downtown Cleveland. Earl Linsz, the proprietor of that establishment originated the idea of the league a year earlier and presented it to the Cleveland Board of Education. Following discussion and organizational meetings, the league commenced with three divisions. In the East Side Division were East Tech, East High, John Adams, Benedictine, Cathedral Latin, and John Hay. The West Side Division was composed of West Tech, West High, John Marshall, Lincoln, Rhodes, and South High. The Suburban Division included Maple Heights, Garfield Heights, Solon, Euclid-Central, Parma, and Bedford. From that group of 18 schools in the inaugural season, only four are currently members of the league: Benedictine, Garfield Heights, John Marshall, and Parma, and only Benedictine has participated continuously since the league's inception.
Initially, The Cleveland News sponsored this league. It operated as a handicap league. In 1951, the sponsorship was taken over by The Cleveland Press, the Bowling Proprietors Association of Greater Cleveland, and Coca-Cola. At that time, the league changed format to include scratch competition, with scratch and handicap matches being staged simultaneously, except in knockdown or roll off rounds. Since 1951, the league has crowned a scratch champion and a handicap champion each year. Each championship is recognized with its own individual team award. The older of these two awards is the Ben Warfield Memorial Cup, named in honor of the long-time bowling writer for The Cleveland Press. That award was instituted on the suggestion of Sam Levine, president of the BPA and publisher of the bowling newspaper The Kegler. The Warfield Cup is a rotating trophy that goes to the league's handicap champion.
After many years, the coaches of the league realized that the scratch championship should also be recognized with a distinctive award, and in 1974, they created the Sam Levine Plaque. This, too, is a rotating award that remains on display at the winning school for a year. Championship teams receive a smaller replica of the Warfield Cup or the Levine Plaque for their permanent trophy collection.
For 38 years, the site of league competition never changed, although the name of the establishment did, becoming Linsz Superior Recreation first, and then Erieview Lanes in 1966. The composition of the league changed over that time as well, fluctuating up and down as new schools entered the league and others dropped out. The league peaked at a high of 25 teams in the 1974-75 season. This season was also notable for having the first female participant when Brenda Narramore of Lincoln-West broke the gender barrier. The following year, the league split into two divisions to keep more schools in the running for a championship. These divisions were simply called Alpha and Beta.
In 1978 the sale of the building housing Erieview Lanes forced the league to find a new home. Since participating schools were located all over the Greater Cleveland area, the leading criterion to choosing a new location was to pick one that was as centrally located and easily accessible as possible. The choice was Cloverleaf Lanes, and the league competed there until 1984, when other factors necessitated another change. Still trying to keep geographic concerns in mind, the league relocated to River Lanes in Rocky River, which, like Cloverleaf, was located near the interstate highway system. However, once again the sale of a building forced a move after only two seasons.
Now, the judgment was made to utilize two locations, one on the East Side and one on the West Side. This decision was based on the locations of the schools still in the league. By 1986, budget cuts had forced all the Cleveland school system teams to drop out, and the league opened the 1986-87 season with an all-time low of 14 teams. The two locations chosen were Ambassador-Bedford on the East Side and Ambassador-Brookpark on the West Side. In 1989, the West Side location switched to Buckeye Lanes.
For several seasons the league operated with this East/West format, bowling one half of the season in one establishment, and the second half in the other. However, in 2000, conditions again forced a partial change of venue, and the league dropped its concern for the East/West situation. Ambassador-Brookpark, now renamed Freeway Lanes, replaced Ambassador-Bedford. In addition, the league changed to alternating weeks in each establishment instead of one half of the season at a time for each. Despite all the transition during this time, the league has built itself back up to a current strength of 20 schools with John Marshall rejoining the league in 2006 for the first time since 1979.
Several individuals who were instrumental in the league's health over the years have been honored with awards in their name. Joe Beck was the proprietor of Erieview Lanes for many years, and when Erieview closed, the league created the Joe Beck Award. Determined by a vote of all the teams in the league, this award goes to the senior who best demonstrates the combination of leadership, sportsmanship, and bowling ability. Sadly, Joe Beck passed away the day before the award in his name was to be presented in 2005. Joe Costanzo served as the director of the league for 16 years while also coaching the team from South High for a portion of that time. In 1987, when he retired, the league developed the Joe Costanzo Performance Award, which is based on a formula that considers average and number of quality games and series, and is open to a bowler in any grade. Ernie Hargett was the coach of the Garfield Heights Bulldog team for 31 years, and when he retired in 1996, the league created the Ernie Hargett Bulldog Award. This award is given to the graduating senior who has accumulated the most total games in his or her career, indicating the tenacity associated with a bulldog. The league's newest award is the Sister Marie Friendship Award, instituted in the 2001-02 season. This award is named for Sister Marie Fillo, who coached Holy Name for 22 years before succumbing to cancer, and who always promoted friendship and positive competitive spirit throughout the entire league. Two other individuals who made important contributions to the league and who suffered an early death were Bill Corr, who coached Brookside for many years, and Dennis Reed, who originated the team from Trinity and who also served as the league's first sanctioning coordinator when the league sanctioned for the first time in the late 90s. At the beginning of the 2004-05 season, the league coaches agreed to honor them by renaming the Alpha and Beta Divisions the Corr Division and the Reed Division.
During the league's existence, many individual bowlers have distinguished themselves. Little is known about the participants or statistics of the 1940s and 1950s, but as far back as 1967, the league had an individual who averaged 196. That was Tim Menge, one of the twins who bowled for St. Joseph and who later ran Twin Lanes. After his 195 average the following season, no one averaged higher until the 1982-83 season when Central Catholic's Eric Busey posted 198. Within that time span, arguably the league's most successful bowler ever, Dave D'Entremont of John Marshall, finished in the top four averages three times, including a personal best 185 as a junior in 1977-78. D'Entremont has since gone on to win six tournaments on the Professional Bowlers Tour and collect a million dollars in career earnings.
Two bowlers from Olmsted Falls have also distinguished themselves. Mark Siders ('95) has finished in the top ten in the US Amateur more than once and in January 2007 was named to Team USA for one year. Amanda Hammel ('06) was one of only five females and five males in the country to win a new award inaugurated in the 2005-2006 season: High School All-American. This award was begun jointly by the USBC and Dexter Shoes. Amanda graduated with a career average of 196, the highest in league history for a female.
The 1983-84 season saw some unbelievable scoring when the entire top ten matched or surpassed that 196 average of Tim Menge. Jeff Shiepe of St. Edward led the way with 211, and five other bowlers finished at 200 or better, including Mike Luft of Berea, who also gave the pro tour a shot. Scoring returned to reality for several years, but in 1987-88, Berea won the team scratch title with three 200 bowlers: Tim Haywood (204), Tom Coufalik (202), and Zoran Jacimovic (201). No team accomplished that feat again until the 2007-08 season, when three teams did it: Midpark, Lutheran West, and Valley Forge. Valley Forge had four bowlers average over 200: Chris Beran (216), Nick Fadil (210), Andy Davis (208), and Chris Wasacz (204).
The following six seasons saw no more than two bowlers from the entire league average 200. However, in 1994-95, four bowlers averaged 200 or better, including the first and only female to reach that benchmark, Mary Ann McClure of Holy Name. She is also the first female to have recorded a 700 series, accomplishing that first as a freshman and doing it a total of four times, with a best effort of 758 in 1993. In the 2004-05 season, Melissa Brenders of Valley Forge recorded a 700 series. On January 21, 2006, Chantel Jefferson of VA/St. Joseph made history when she recorded the first 300 game by a female.
The first-ever 300 game in the league was rolled by Chris Burz of Lutheran West in 1997. Despite the increase in scoring resulting from the combination of new technology, better lane conditions, and better preparation in youth leagues, it was not until the league's 57th season that perfection was attained. Since that first one, nineteen more perfectas have been recorded, including a second one by Burz. The 2005-06 season saw three 300 games besides Jefferson's. In 2006-07 there were five more, including an amazing achievement by one bowler. On September 30, 2006, Brandon White of Benedictine made league history when he threw back-to-back 300 games and a series of 836. It was the first 800 in league history, though the previous season did see three individual series of 773 or better. That season also saw a new high individual average of 219.88 by Chris Baranovic of Holy Name. The following season he surpassed that mark, averaging 221.47, but Rob Smith of Olmsted Falls set the new standard for the league with 225.90. Again, the new record only lasted one year as Holy Name's Matt Molzan smashed it by averaging 234.62. He also recorded the league's second 800 series with 823, including a 300 game. And Brandon White added two more 300 games and an 811 series to his career achievements. Altogether, there were five more 300s in 2007-08.
The Greater Cleveland Interscholastic Bowling League is one of the oldest youth leagues in the nation. The future of the league is promising as now bowling has been recognized as a varsity sport; furthermore varsity bowling is one of the fastest growing high school sports.