Kearny’s Ryan Valli places ninth in NJSIAA Boys Bowling Tournament

When Ryan Valli left last year’s NJSIAA Boys Bowling Individual Tournament, he did so with feelings of disappointment after an early exit.

On Thursday, the Kearny standout competing in his third state tournament was able to leave North Brunswick’s Bowlero with his head held high as he finished ninth with a two-series score of 1,255 pins.

“Last year was really disappointing. I know if I made one or two spares last year, I would’ve qualified to the round of 18,” said Valli. “This year, even though I might not have won, might not have moved on to the top five stepladder, it was a great feeling because I feel like I did everything I could.”

Valli’s day at Bowlero started on the “downstairs” side of the alley, which he feels is the more challenging area and carded a three-game series of 609, the 10th highest in the 100 bowler field. The performance qualified him for the second round, which is reserved for the top 18 from the previous round.

The 18 moved “upstairs” – an area where Valli feels “hooks a lot more and there’s just a lot more room for error.” Bowling in his preferred area, Valli rolled a 646 series in the second round.

While the overall score of 1,255 fell short of qualifying for the five-person stepladder round, Valli was happy with his overall performance. It marked the first time in three tries that Valli advanced to the top 18.

“I really wanted to qualify for the top 18. I wanted to move to that second round more than anything and whatever happens from there, happens,” Valli said. “I did what I wanted to do (out there). Obviously, I didn’t come out on top, but finishing in the top 10 is a bigger achievement than I could ever ask for.

“I knew I could compete with the top talent there, it’s just about performing. To be in the top of the bowlers in the state is amazing. It’s a great feeling.”

Valli, who wanted to thank his parents John and Veronica for all of their help throughout his bowling journey, which started when John first started teaching him at 18 months and never let him use rails or bumpers growing up.

For Valli, Thursday marked the conclusion of a high school bowling career that no one at Kearny can match. Earlier in February, he defeated North Bergen’s Antonio Guitierrez to win his second Hudson County King of the Lanes title. Twice, Valli led the HCIAL in average and was a three-time state tournament qualifier.

Valli rolled a 300 game as a sophomore and as a junior, he earned All-State, Third Team honors by after winning a North Jersey sectional title.

Despite the incredible resume, Valli isn’t fully satisfied yet as he looks to continue bowling competitively after high school and seeks to further improve his game.

“I’m going to continue to bow, hopefully four or five days a week,” Valli said. “There’s always room for improvement. Nobody will ever be perfect, that’s just how it is and in the sport of bowling, you can’t be perfect. I want to continue practicing, keep working, and I’m going to get better. That’s the goal.”

Overall, five Observer-area bowlers for boys and girls state tournaments, which took the top 100 regular season averages through Feb. 6.

Joining Valli in the boys tournament were Jackson Cernigilia-Rapavi of Nutley, who rolled a 536 series in the first round, North Arlington’s Rohan Patel (531) and Mark Rigano of Lyndhurst (378).

Nutley’s Gabriella Lucivero was the one area qualifier for the girls tournament and rolled a 478 series in the first round. Earlier in the week at North Arlington Lanes, Lucivero took second place in the Essex County Girls Bowling Individual Tournament. The senior rolled earned the top seed in the qualifying round with a 589 series, but was defeated by Victoria Cheng of Livingston in the stepladder final.

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Jason Bernstein | Observer Sports Writer

Jason Bernstein joined The Observer as its sports writer in March 2022, following the retirement of Jim Hague. He has a wealth of sports-writing experience, including for NJ Advance Media (, The Jersey Journal, The Star-Ledger.)