Young bowler Matt Kilberg adds perfect 300 game to elite collection

Steve Brownlee

Last month, Matt Kilberg attained the first major feat attained by most quality bowlers.

But he did it as his second major accomplishment of his adult bowling career.

The 20-year-old Ishpeming resident bowled a perfect 300 game to open his Tuesday Major League session at River Rock Lanes on Dec. 6.

He finished with 253 and 182 for a 735 series using his 15-pound Storm 2 Fast reactive resin ball.

It came just over a year after he shot another U.S. Bowling Congress honor score, a three-game series of 812.

Many top bowlers get the 300 first and many may never reach the coveted 800 series, borne out by USBC numbers I examined awhile back that show 800s are four or five times rarer than 300s.

It’s not too surprising if you look at the way elite scoring works. Basically, if you break up a long string of strikes with a spare, you’ve cost yourself a minimum of 21 pins. Do that five times, and you’re more than 100 pins shy of a perfect 900 series, meaning you’ve missed 800.

Still, Kilberg felt relieved to get 300 out of the way now.

“It was still pretty nerve-wracking,” he said when I asked if it was easier already having bowled 800. “I was really surprised with the 250 the second game. I always heard it’s tough to bowl good the game after a 300.”

He also explained the changing oil conditions got away from him the last game, when a 247 could’ve netted him another 800.

“I should’ve changed balls,” he said about the third game. However, it’s easy to understand why you’d want to stick with the ball that got you 553 after two games.

Kilberg, who bowled four years on the Ishpeming-Negaunee bowling team, has had only one other close call with 300 when he rolled a 299.

On this December night, he threw a different ball for most of his practice and switched to the 2 Fast on a lark.

“I just wanted to see what it would do,” he said, adding it made him feel more comfortable playing an inside line, one near the center of the lane.

He recalls having one hit in the 300 that was a bit light in the strike pocket in the sixth or seventh frame when the head-pin acted as a “messenger” coming across the lane to take out the 10-pin.

In the spring of 2014 as a senior, he became the first Upper Peninsula high school bowler to earn a statewide Dream Team berth from the Michigan High School Interscholastic Bowling Coaches Association.

Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is