AUGUST 25-27 – Wickliffe I&A Grounds
The Wickliffe Italian-American Club is thrilled to announce that the 34th Annual Pat O’Brien Chevrolet / Cleveland Challenge Cup of Bocce will be held this year on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday August 25th, 26th and 27th at the Club’s world class facilities, located at 29717 Euclid Avenue, Wickliffe, Ohio 44092. The event features 96 competing bocce teams from Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Massachusetts, 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 eastern suburbs of Cleveland, playing in only their 2nd tournament together.
The event has become a much more than a bocce tournament however, as the weekend is filled with a variety of entertainment, cultural activities, a variety of food choices, activities for children and an overall family friendly atmosphere. Various members of the Lake County Visitors Bureau, which awards grants each year to organizations that attract visitors from outside the county, have made such comments about the event as:
“International event, hundreds of overnight stays.”
“It is a unique cultural experience!”
The last few years have seen local teams rise to the forefront despite competing against some of the best teams in the country and internationally. Local bocce players can hold their own against anyone and the sport has seen a resurgence in recent years as young, athletic players have taken up the sport. The tournament is capped at 96 teams and the spots usually fill up quickly, so if you are interested in entering a team you can pick up a team entry application at any of the Pat O’Brien Chevrolet stores, or download one from www.wickliffeianda.com, or you can call Paul DiCicco at 440-552-1865. A full Schedule of Events will be listed in next month’s La Gazzetta and on the Club website.
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.
2016 Tournament Recap
“There’s somethin’ happening here; what it is, ain’t exactly clear….” These lyrics from the old Buffalo Springfield song sum up this year’s Cleveland Challenge Cup of Bocce where the winds of change continue to blow. Powerhouse teams from traditional bocce strongholds such as Toronto, Rome, NY., and East Haven, Connecticut along with regional teams from Youngstown/Warren/Niles all gathered to compete again this year in Wickliffe. Even teams from as far as Maryland and Mississippi found their way here, as this tournament continues to gain prestige within the bocce world.
The story the last two years was the emergence of a young team from Cleveland’s Little Italy neighborhood (all under 27) that stormed through the tournament undefeated both years. Would they be able to repeat for a 3rd consecutive year and rival the old Rainbow Creek/Toronto teams that actually accomplished that feat twice (1987-1989; 1998-2000)? Well the answer was a resounding NO! The competition was fierce, and if you didn’t bring your “A” game every time out, you weren’t around long. However, another relatively young local team, Adelio’s Contracting, emerged this year and steadily worked their way through the winner’s bracket to position themselves as a solid contender, while many of the traditional powerhouse teams – including last year’s runner-up and 2013 champions, Palazzo 777 along with mighty Rainbow Creek, and East Haven, CT all lost a game and had to fight through the loser’s bracket.
In only their 2nd tournament together, Adelio’s defeated Rainbow Creek in the championship game by a score of 16-11 to capture the 2016 Cleveland Challenge Cup of Bocce. Facing an experienced Rainbow Creek team, Adelio’s came out strong and jumped out to an 8-0 lead with Anthony Melaragno leading the way, hitting point balls away and sticking his ball for point. Rainbow Creek crawled back into the game at 12-6, but Adelio’s came back with 3 points as Rainbow Creek’s hit attempts missed the mark. However the Toronto veterans weren’t done yet, and came right back with 3 points of their own after a rare miss by Melaragno and continued to inch back into the game at 15-11. Adelio’s was finally able to put the game away in Frame 15 with a point shot to the back wall by Sergio DiFranco, grabbing the Challenge Cup trophy by a score of 16-11.
Captain Sergio DiFranco, Richie DiFranco, Mike Ianetta, and Anthony Melaragno, Jr. are all between the ages of 35-40, and several of their fathers (Bruno Ianetta, Tony Melagrano) are local bocce legends – former Challenge Cup winners with the Vandra Brothers teams (1990, 2002, 2010, 2012). Sergio DiFranco’s father – Adelio DiFranco was the 5th man on the team as well as coach and mentor for the younger players, and he is also a well-known bocce player in the area. It looks like the torch is being passed from one generation to the next! But it will be harder and harder to repeat as the level of play of many young local teams – including teams with Wickliffe I&A Members – is rapidly improving.
Congratulations to Wickliffe I&A Members who finished in the Top 16 this year, including: Bryan, Mike, and Pete Vitantonio, Frank Gambatese (Wickliffe I&A #1) who tied for 5th place with Frank DiCillo, Russ Meraglio (Fioritto Funeral Home); Chris Federico (Rompe Le Palle) who tied for 7th place, and Eugene Ciasullo (TC Construction) who tied for 9th place.