Spangler edges Wolfe for York County Match Play title in classic duel

Mike Spangler became just the second back-to-back champion and three-time winner in the history of the event.

Barry Sparks
For The York Dispatch

Only 22 pins separated Ritchie Wolfe, Mike Spangler and Nick Ryncewicz going into the final match of the BowlerMaxx York County Match Play Championship on Sunday at Laser Alleys.

Wolfe, the 2019 champ and event leader after qualifying, held a slim 10-pin lead over Spangler, the defending champ, and a 22-pin margin over Ryncewicz, the youngest bowler in the field at age 22. All three had a chance to win the title.

Wolfe faced Spangler and Ryncewicz dueled Brandon Updike in the final match. In match play, bowlers receive 30 bonus pins for a win and plus or minus the number of pins over or under 200 each game.

The tension was palpable as Wolfe and Spangler hooked up in a classic duel. Wolfe struck out in the 10th to finish with a 247. Spangler, however, responded with three textbook strikes to edge Wolfe, 248-247, to earn the title by 21 pins. Updike defeated Ryncewicz, 219-207.

Mike Spangler, left, accepts the 2023 BowlerMaxx York County Match Play Championship trophy from  tournament director Mike Zelger. Spangler won $1,000 for the victory.

"I knew it wasn't going to be easy," said a tired Spangler, who earned his third Match Play title. He joined Adam Baer as the second bowler in the tournament's 27-year history to capture back-to-back crowns. He and Baer (a five-time champ) also are the only players to win more than two Match Play titles.

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"It definitely feels good to win," said Spangler, who earned $1,000 for the victory. "I was just happy to win this tournament once. But I can tell you there's no other tournament I want to win more than this one."

Spangler got off to a slow start in the final match as he opened in the first, struck in the second and added a pair of spares. This allowed Wolfe to build a 20-pin lead after four games.

The right-handed Spangler switched balls before the final match, and he said he wasn't quite sure where to stand on the lane. He gradually made adjustments until he found the strike zone.

"After the first four frames, I kept telling myself I had to strike out to win," he said. The calm veteran closed the game with eight consecutive strikes.

A spare in the ninth frame proved costly for Wolfe, who was riding a five-bagger and had a nine-pin lead. 

"The shot in the ninth frame wasn't a good one," he said. "I threw it too hard. I was lucky to get a nine count."

Wolfe was helpless as he watched Spangler roll the crucial 10th frame.

"Knowing the caliber of bowler Mike is, I expected him to strike out, and he did," Wolfe said. "This was a great tournament and a fantastic finish. I look forward to a rematch with Mike."

Spangler enjoyed a 145-pin lead after four games of match play. But the race tightened considerably after Wolfe rolled a 300 in the fifth game, and Spangler registered a 166 and lost his match in game seven. The standings remained close throughout the 16-game match play weekend, building to the memorable finish.

The final standings:

  1. Spangler (1,508)
  2. Wolfe (1,487)
  3. Ryncewicz (1,425)
  4. Brandon Updike (1,327)
  5. Greg Bruff (1,244)
  6. Chris Green (1,210)
  7. Jim Tomek (1,185)
  8. Jerred Poff (1,144)
  9. George Kostjal (1,142)
  10. Mark Fuhrman (1,119)
  11. Jasyn Kitner (1,119)
  12. Jacob Hawkins (1,082)
  13. Kevin Appnel (1,016)
  14. Billy Heltzel Jr. (874)
  15. Paul Wolfram (861)
  16. Andrew Carl (739)

Preview:Spangler seeking history as York County Match Play bowling tournament returns