Nick Caruso wasn’t doing as well as he would have liked as a freshman with the Hilliard Bradley boys bowling team, so he looked to one of his idols as an example.
Pro bowler Jason Belmonte uses a two-handed release during competition, and Caruso decided to emulate that style when he is on the lanes. As a result, the senior watched his average climb from 178.9 per game as a sophomore during his first varsity season to 207.4 this year entering a matchup with Dublin Scioto on Dec. 16.
“I’d bowl recreationally and mess around, but then I would bowl one-handed,” Caruso said. “I know that Jason Belmonte, a top professional (bowler), is a good two-hander. I kind of idolized him and also my thumb was kind of getting beaten up, so I decided to give it a try. It’s pretty fun.
“I have an athletic background. To throw two-handed, you have to be flexible and be all-around physically built, and I can use my body to its full extent as a two-hander. I feel like I’m limiting myself by throwing one-handed.”
Caruso, who averaged 191.7 last season, had a high game of 254 and a high two-game series of 489 before facing Scioto. Both milestones were achieved during a 2,153-1,525 win over Walnut Ridge on Dec. 6 in COHSBC-B Division play.
“(Two-handed bowling) is the future for a lot of kids,” said coach John Thompson, who is in his 13th season leading Bradley’s boys and girls teams. “They have more (revolutions) and more speed on the ball (throwing two-handed) and the ability to cross the lane from one side to the other.
“It’s like everything else. It’s a matter of change for the sport. We started using hard-rubber Manhattan balls and changed to more balls that can hook. It’s the evolution of the sport. If you don’t like change, you’ll be left behind.”
The Jaguars have three varsity bowlers using the two-handed release in Caruso, senior Hunter Houser and sophomore Carson Dever. That scenario prompted Thompson to hire Vince Castorano, an assistant who bowls two-handed.
“I feel like (two-handed bowling) is easier to learn,” Castorano said. “I started out one-handed, and I found it difficult as I got older. I started two-handed about five years ago and from there it took off. I saw an increase in my average by about 20 or 25 pins, and I’ve done it ever since.
“Nick is good. It’s just a matter of him being consistent and not getting down on himself. I feel like he could be really good with a few tweaks here and there.”
According to Caruso, switching to being a two-handed bowler often has a negative effect on a player’s average at first, but those lower scores eventually begin to rise.
“You definitely have to be patient,” said Caruso, who also is a middle infielder with the Bradley baseball program. “You’re not going to hit every shot when you start out (rolling two-handed). It’s definitely a big change because you’re doing different things than you would as a one-hander. It takes a while to get used to it.
“It’s worked out great for me, and I even got Hunter started (as a two-hander). If I was still a one-hander, I probably wouldn’t be doing what I am now.”
•Coach: John Thompson, 13th season
•Top athletes: Boys — Nick Caruso, Carson Dever and Jacob Wolford; Girls — Madison Kennedy and Maddy McKay
•Key losses: Boys — Nick Curran, Brandon Dever, Zander Dietz and Joe Dwyer; Girls — Makayla Davis, Callie Hribar, Olivia Johnson and Katie Yabroff
•Last season: Boys — 13-1 overall; Girls — 11-2 overall
•2020-21 finishes: Boys — Second in COHSBC-B, first in OCC-Cardinal, third at sectional, second at district, 13th at state; Girls — Second in COHSBC-B, tied for first in OCC-Cardinal, third at sectional, seventh at district
•Outlook: The boys team advanced to state for the first time last season but returns just senior Caruso from that lineup. Junior Wolford and sophomore Carson Dever also have varsity experience.
The girls team lost four starters to graduation, with only seniors Kennedy and McKay seeing much action at the varsity level.
•Quotable: “The boys are looking pretty strong and have some experienced bowlers back. The girls team is quite an overhaul. There is experience there, but not high-average experience. But that will come.” — Thompson
•Coach: Constance Clauss, first season
•Top athletes: Boys —Mason Will; Girls — Saturn Beard, Emily Decker, Hailey Hunter and Riley Skaggs
•Key losses: Boys — Zach Brandewie and Will Mifsud; Girls — Lyndsey Seagraves
•Last season: Boys — 5-9 overall; Girls — 6-6 overall
•2020-21 finishes: Boys — Ninth in COHSBC-B, fourth in OCC-Cardinal, 21st at sectional; Girls — Fourth in COHSBC-B, fifth in OCC-Cardinal, 12th at sectional, 15th at district
•Outlook: It’s a new era in a lot of ways for Darby, starting with a new coach in Clauss. Senior Will is the only returnee for the boys, while the girls have four of their top five back, but the other four competitors are first-time bowlers.
Will, who rolled a 541 at district a year ago, averaged 131.8 pins through 10 games to lead the boys team during a 0-4 start.
The girls return senior Decker, juniors Beard and Skaggs and sophomore Hunter. Hunter was averaging 136.0 through six games to lead the Panthers, who opened 1-3.
•Quotable: “Everyone on the team is basically brand new. We only have four returning girls and all the boys are brand new except for two. You can tell that they’re really dedicated to being here.” — Clauss
•Coach: Adrian Jasinski, 13th season
•Top athletes: Boys — Nicholas Bremer, Josh Crawford, Caelan Guthrie and Derek Wellman; Girls — Abby Pettis and Maggie Tighe
•Key losses: Boys — Ben Curry, Kaden Miller and Owen Savage; Girls — None
•Last season: Boys — 9-5 overall
•2020-21 finishes: Boys — Fifth in COHSBC-B, third in OCC-Central, fourth at sectional, 11th at district; Girls — Did not compete in league play or postseason
•Outlook: The boys team features a number of underclassman returnees, including sophomore Guthrie, who finished 11th at district last season with a 626 series. He also led the Wildcats with a 194.4 average.
Also back are junior Crawford and sophomores Bremer and Wellman. Bremer finished 69th (478) at district and averaged 174.7, while Wellman bowled in one game at district (169).
After competing with a limited roster last season, the girls team should be able to return to full strength.
Returnees include juniors Tighe, who tied for 84th (392) at sectional, and Pettis. The remaining players are mainly sophomores and freshmen.
•Quotable: “I’m very happy with the teams. The boys have a good shot of having a good conference record. Last year, the girls were up and down. We only had three or four at a time. We have eight girls on a regular basis this year, so we’re good with the girls and we have j.v. A and B teams for the boys. We have a good turnout this year. I didn’t have to turn anybody away. A lot of the kids who were freshmen last year are really improving.” — Jasinski
This article originally appeared on ThisWeek: Bowling: Hilliard Bradley’s Caruso excelling with two-handed delivery