2017 Tournament Recap
On a perfect late-August weekend, 104 men’s bocce teams from various parts of the U.S. and Canada, assembled at the beautiful grounds of the Wickliffe Italian-American Club to compete for over $17,000 in prize money, vying to see who were the best players on the circuit. This tournament has become a jewel on the regional and now national bocce scene, not only because the competition is stiff, but the event itself has turned into an annual celebration of all things Italian and especially friends, family, and food! The constant entertainment that runs throughout the weekend has something for everyone – from magicians and animal acts for the kids, to Italian music, Sinatra, and rock music for dancing. It’s a lively atmosphere as well as a safe and friendly one. Spectators actually come to watch the bocce players compete, and are knowledgeable about the sport. The players appreciate the support and respect. The game really has a unique niche on the American sports circuit.
The trend over the last few years has been the ascendancy of the younger players – players from their early 20’s to late 30’s, rising quickly to dominate play. This year however, the veteran teams played solidly and several moved into the final rounds, poised to capture the Challenge Cup. Among them were Palazzo 777 (Detroit/Toronto) and The Matrice Club (from Cleveland/Collinwood) playing in the Loser’s Bracket semi-final, while the Vandra Brothers (4 times champion from Cleveland/Mayfield, and ABV Contracting – the 2014 and 2015 champions (also from Cleveland/Mayfield), were poised to compete to see who would stay undefeated or who would have to play a game in the loser’s bracket to get back to the finals.
The Matrice club was on the verge of moving on when they surged out to a 13-6 lead. But the international all-star team that is Palazzo 777 came back to score 8 consecutive points to grab the win, 14-13. Vandra Brothers jumped out in front early against ABV and never let up, winning 14-2. So that put ABV back into the loser’s bracket to square off against the dangerous Palazzo 777. In a see-saw battle, ABV moved out to a 13-10 lead. The next frame required a measurement by the official to determine who had the point. Palazzo then had to try and hit the game point out, but Pat Pezzin from Palazzo 777 missed the hit and ABV won the match.
So that pit the 2012 Champions (Vandra Brothers) against the 2014-15 Champions (ABV Contractors), who beat the 2013 Champions (Palazzo 777) to get to the finals! Got all that? The Vandra Brothers team, consisting of Anthony Melaragno, Bruno Ianetta, Felice Scala, and Renato Patete, had a determined look and a confident air about them. They jumped out to a 9-3 lead over the young ABV team (Michael
Frabotta, Domenic Aveni, Dennis Strnad, and Anthony Michael Croce) whose average age was around 25 years old. ABV’s normally reliable hitter Anthony Michael Croce, had a rough game, missing on several hits, while Vandra’s Bruno Iannetta was not. ABV looked like they were staging a comeback after falling to a 9-3 deficit, but they just couldn’t get over the hump, eventually falling to Vandra by a score of 16-10.
Women’s Bracket Recap
12 women’s teams took the courts Saturday morning with 2 teams remaining Sunday evening. Toccolana #2 (Rome, NY) and Formica Plumbing (Wickliffe, OH) both came into the final round with 1 loss. Formica Plumbing defeated Toccolana #2 16-5 to keep their championship dreams alive while Toccolana #2 only needed to beat Formica Plumbing one time to capture the championship but came up short in the previous match. What a way to add to the excitement in the Women’s Division with the Women’s Championship coming down to one final match! The composure and focus of each player was at an all time high with so much at stake.
Early in the match the main focus landed on the lead pointers from each team. Bumbarger for Formica Plumbing and Rosa for Toccolana #2, controlled the early frames with their excellent pointing as the teams battled before Toccolana #2 took a 3 point lead after the 5th frame with a huge hit from A. Cortese and a great point from Callicchia for 3. Formica Plumbing down 6 to 3 in the 6th frame wasn’t going to back down easily as they were able to switch the momentum into their favor going on a 9-3 run ending the 13th frame up 12 to 9. Heading into the 14th frame Toccolana #2 stepped up their game as G. Cortese, Rosa and Callicchia were able to point for 3 along with another huge hit from A. Cortese who shot 55% for the game, but down the stretch it was Formica Plumbing who had the crowd holding their breath as Matiyasic pointing and Formica hitting pushed Formica Plumbing ahead but weren’t able to seal the deal twice; as both teams tied 15-15 going into the 20th and final frame.
The 20th frame started with Rosa pointing a “bocce kiss” as her ball kissed the pallino to the left. Formica who shot 85% for the game crushed Rosa’s ball and the pallino near the left back wall but was unable to acquire a point. Bumbarger then placed a close point to force
A. Cortese to shoot, but a rare miss pressured G. Cortese to point, but she also missed by a few inches. It was then that Callicchia – with the game on the line to point with Toccolanna #2’s last ball rose to the occasion as she was able to steal the match point away. Formica Plumbing then gathered at center court to discuss their strategy as the crowd grew restless waiting to crown a champion. Gaydos who was pointing well all game rose to the occasion as she stepped onto the court looking to steal the point and the match from Toccolanna #2. Cool, calm and collected, Gaydos angled her shot down the left; releasing her shot with all the audience eyes locked onto the green bocce ball. At first, the shot seemed quick off the release, but once the ball reached the left wall it had lost velocity slowly rolling between the pallino and the Callicchia ball. Gaydos’ shot suddenly came to a complete stop landing in front of Callicchia ball stealing the point and capturing the Cleveland Challenge Cup of Bocce Women’s Division Championship for Formica Plumbing! The crowd was in a roar as they cheered for Formica Plumbing as the team ran towards Gaydos hugging and smiling her in pure happiness of capturing the 2017 championship.
Post Game Quotes:
“This Championship was for my beautiful teammates and for my mother who recently passed away” Maryann Gaydos stated shortly after.
“My team is awesome, these ladies are awesome, and we did it for our loved ones who couldn’t make it today” Rose Matiyasic said with excitement and tears of joy!
“It’s an amazing feeling to bring home a championship” Stacey Anne Bumbarger shouted with happiness!
AUGUST 25-27 – Wickliffe I&A Grounds
Wickliffe, Ohio – The Wickliffe Italian-American Club announced that the 34th Annual Pat O’Brien Chevrolet Cleveland Challenge Cup of Bocce will be held on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday August 25th, 26th, and 27th at the Wickliffe Italian-American Club located at 29717 Euclid Avenue in Wickliffe, Ohio 44092. The event features 96 competing bocce teams from Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Massachussets, Illinois, Michigan, Maryland, Florida, Mississippi, California, and Canada. Last year’s winner was the local Adelio’s Contracting team, consisting of players in their early to mid 30’s from the Mayfield area, in only their 2nd tournament playing together. They will be returning to defend their title again along with the Women’s Division Champs, Bottiglieri’s Lawn Care from Niles, Ohio.
The opening ceremonies will begin at 6:00 p..m. on Friday August 25th, with the national anthem of the U.S.A, Italy, and Canada being sung by 16 year-old Giovanni Castiglione of Solon. Tournament play begins directly afterward and will run continuously through Sunday night on the nine covered bocce courts. The Wickliffe Italian-American Club will present the top 16 teams with cash prizes totaling $17,200. To enter a team in this year’s tournament, call Paul DiCicco (440-552-1865). Applications will also be available at the 5 Pat O’Brien Chevrolet stores in Willoughby Hills, Westlake, Vermillion, Norwalk, and Medina starting in July, as well as various Key Bank locations and can also
be downloaded from the club’s website.
Entertainment will run throughout the weekend in the covered pavilion, Saturday also features cultural activities from noon to 3 p.m. hosted by Paul Sciria from La Gazzetta Italian Newspaper. Sunday is Family Day and will once again feature a variety of entertainment and activities for children including Magician Rick Smith Jr; an appearance by “Jungle Terry” , and DJ Dave spinning music. A wide variety of food vendors will provide homemade Italian food and specialty dishes as well as traditional American fare.
2017 Schedule of Events
Friday, August 25th:
- 5:30 p.m. – Opening Ceremonies, National Anthems sung by Gio Castiglione
- 6:00 p.m. – Tournament play begins
- 7:00 – 11:00 p.m. – Live music by Cavalieri Reale
Saturday, August 26th:
- 8:00 a.m. – Tournament play resumes
- Noon to 3:00 p.m. – Italian Cultural Activities in the Pavillion
- Emcee Angie Spitalieri, Publisher of LaGazzetta Italian Newspaper
- Jim Frank Trio
- Cooking Demonstration by Chef Dan of the Euclid Culinary School
- Appearance by Miss Italia
- Photo display from the Western Reserve Historical Society on the History of Italians in Cleveland (In the Club Room)
- 4:00 – 7:00 p.m. – Live Entertainment by Bobby Leach (Sinatra music)
- 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. – Live Broadcast with Tony Marotta of Radio Italia/Cleveland; WRUW 91.1 FM
- 8:00 – Midnight – Live music by SUMRADA
Sunday, August 27th:
- 8:00 a.m. – Tournament play resumes
- Noon – 1:00 p.m. – Live Broadcast with Carmelina Antonelli’s “Touch of Italy” show; WELW 1330 AM
- 1:00 – 1:50 p.m. – Magic Show with Rick Smith Jr.
- 2:00 – 3:00 p.m. – Jungle Terry Exotic Animal Show
- 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. – DJ Dave
- 4:00 p.m. – Women’s Division Championship (approximate time)
- 6:00 p.m. – Men’s Division Championship (approximate time)
The event is partially funded with a grant from the Lake County Visitors Bureau. As part of the grant reward process, 9 judges review the applications submitted and give scores based on various criteria. The Cleveland Challenge Cup of Bocce received an overall score of 98.85 (out of 100), tied for the top score out of the 19 organizations that applied. Some of the comments of the judges were as follows:
- Amazing Event!
- International event, hundreds of overnight stays
- It is a unique cultural experience
- Well documented tourism impact
- A model project for this grant
THE WICKLIFFE ITALIAN AMERICAN CLUB is a community-based social/fraternal organization established in 1932 for people of Italian ancestry who live in the city of Wickliffe, Ohio ( a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio). The club actively promotes and recognizes those of Italian descent who have furthered the Italian cultural bond that they they share, and offers educational programs for the children and grandchildren of it’s members, as well as awarding college scholarships each year to those who have demonstrated knowledge and pride in their Italian heritage. The Pat O’Brien Cleveland Challenge Cup of Bocce Tournament is now in its 33nd year and has grown from 16 teams to 96 teams, with attendance hitting over 12.000 once again in 2015. It is still the largest men’s bocce tournament in the Midwest.