Matt Buck revs back to throw at Rockford Lanes in a dual against Caledonia. ~ Photo by Jeannie Gregory
The Rockford bowler revved back and let the ball fly down the lane, hitting his second strike in a row. The reaction from the crowd that had gathered at Rockford Lanes was audible – from not only the Ram fans, but those from Caledonia. The bowler’s name is Matt Buck and he’s used to wowing crowds. Matt, a lefty junior, is the defending MHSAA D1 Boys Bowling Individual State Champion.
Last year as a sophomore, he methodically worked his way through the finals bracket in Sterling Heights, on March 3, 2018. On his way to the finals he bowled rounds of 360, 403, and a 413 in the semis. In the finals, he faced off against senior Ryan Reid, from Detroit UD Jesuit. Matt rolled a 196 and a 201 for 397 pins. His opponent had a tough first round, only rolling a 152. His second was better, 218 pins, for a total of 370, but it wasn’t even close to Matt’s total. Matt earned the state crown by 27 pins.
“Last year, as a sophomore, he did surprise me with the state championship,” says boys bowling head coach Paul Bellgraph. “He didn’t have huge games, but he made all the shots he needed to win.”
Bellgraph, who has been the boys bowling coach for 17 years and plenty of experiences on the lanes, won’t be surprised this year.
Matt’s high game so far this season is a 275.
“His biggest improvement this year over last is he is stronger and more controlled,” shares Bellgraph. “He finishes at the line a lot better. He has a knowledge of his game and what moves to make. As an individual, he doesn’t seem to get upset as easily as he did his first year on the team. He stays calm.”
He shows that calmness as he works his way down the line of his teammates. He is the team’s co-captain this year, and he proves he is an able leader. He stops and says some words of wisdom to a bowler who seems to be struggling.
“His ability to stay calm helps keep his team calm,” says Bellgraph. “That’s the biggest thing I could ask of him and he’s always positive in talking to the guys.”
Matt has a sister, Heather, who has earned her own reputation on the lanes for Rockford. Heather, a senior, has notched a Regional Title, and has also qualified for State Finals competitions. Their mother, Lianne, is in her third year as the coach of the RHS Girls Bowling Team. Their father, Tony Buck, is a former professional bowler, and also earned Grand Rapids Hall of Fame honors. Their brother, Eric, also earned accolades as a bowler. Obviously, bowling is in their blood.
With that deep of a background in bowling, Bellgraph doesn’t have a lot of opportunity to make suggestions to improve his bowler’s game.
“As a coach, the only thing I can do for Matt is to talk over a bad shot and maybe suggest what moves to make,” explains Bellgraph. “He is like all my guys, the coaches always give input of what moves we think should be made to correct the shot. Matt is always open to anything I ask of him, both on and off the lanes when it comes to bowling and the team.”
Matt talks to head coach Paul Bellgraph. ~ Photo by Jeannie Gregory
Ram Heather Buck takes a minute from her game to watch her brother Matt at Rockford Lanes. ~ Photo by Jeannie Gregory