Steve Wagoner is a big fan of Burnt Hills Lanes, whether it be on the old wood-surfaced lanes or the newly installed synthetic ones.
The 35-year-old Broadalbin resident, who excelled in nearly every other major local tournament, with the exception of the Northeast Bowling Proprietors of New York’s Huck Finn “Capital Region Bowling Show” series until this year, won his second Huck Finn tournament of the season by a comfortable margin Sunday.
Wagoner, the top qualifying seed for the stepladder finals, bounced 54-year-old Mark Kepner, 242-193, in the championship game of the Huck Finn Kenny Hall Tournament of Champions. He previously won the Huck Finn Non-Winners tournament, also at Burnt Hills Lanes. Before that, the only other Huck Finn title on his resume was a doubles tournament with Nick Miseno.
Wagoner took control of the championship game with five consecutive strikes from the third frame through the seventh. He earned the top seed by knocking down 1,257 pins in the five-game qualifier earlier Sunday, edging Kepner by 21 pins. Miseno (1,233) and left-hander Mark James (1,229) also made the stepladder finals.
“I just made some adjustments, just like I did earlier in the qualifying when the lanes started to break down,” said Wagoner. “I started with my 811CT ball and then switched to the 503T, just like I did in the morning.
“I’ve been working on a lot of things ever since I joined the Track [ball company] staff. I’ve taken my game to a whole new level since I’ve been with Track. Plus, I’ve got to thank Marty and Debbie Capullo for sponsoring me and helping me out over at Towne Bowling Academy.”
Wagoner has slowly elevated his game to among the five or six best bowlers in the Capital Region. Included on his star-studded resume are winning the 2007 Coors Light tournament and a check for $3,500, capturing the Joe Donato Scratch Singles tournament and making match play at the PBA Empire State Open, when it was held at Spare Time Clifton Park.
Wagoner, owner of 55 career 300 games and 21 800 triples, also has roughly 15 Northern Bowlers Association titles to his credit.
“I think the strength of my game is my ability to make adjustments quickly,” he said. “I prefer more challenging conditions, because I don’t seem to fare that well when it’s a high-scoring shootout, but I’ll compete anywhere and on any condition.”
Wagoner said the next big tournaments on his schedule are a New England Bowling Association event and a trip to the USBC nationals in Las Vegas with 19 other top local players.
Kepner, a Troy Bowling Association Hall of Fame member, has several Huck Finn tournament victories to his credit, including winning the mixed doubles with his daughter, Jennifer.
He defeated the 48-year-old James, 236-166, in the semifinals after connecting for five strikes in a row. James is a former Jack Scaccia Memorial champion.
James, who has 29 300 game and 22 800 triples, defeated Ballston Lake’s Miseno, 234-226, in the opening round. Miseno, 44, has 62 perfect games, 15 800s and four PBA regional wins to his credit.
The final Huck Finn event will be the Jack Scaccia Memorial Sunday. The TV finals will be taped at 5 p.m. at Boulevard Bowl.