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U.S. Men Win Team Gold; Canada Takes Trios; USA Win Doubles Gold and Silver; Rash Wins Men’s Singles At 2016 PABCON Adult Championships

10/15/2016

CALI, Colombia - It didn't take long for the Team USA men to erase the deficit they found themselves in after the first day of team competition at the 2016
Pan American Bowling Confederation Adult Championships, and they rallied late in their final game to hold off Canada and secure the gold medal. Team USA entered the second half of the team event 68 pins behind but whittled away at that number with a 1,180 opening game Friday at Bolera Departamental. The group then surged into the lead with a 1,177 effort, while Canada only managed games of 1,141 and 1,093.
The final game saw the Canadians with the overall advantage six frames in, but the United
States figured out a way to strike on the challenging right lane, before four of the five players doubled in the 10th frame to seal the victory.

Team USA, which last won the team title in Las
Vegas in 2012, finished with a 1,088 game and
6,817 six-game total. Canada closed with 1,104 for a 6,778 total, and Colombia, the defending champion in the team event, claimed the bronze medal with a 6,556 effort.

"The guys didn't need any motivation after yesterday because they simply don't like to lose," Team USA coach Bryan O'Keefe said. "It was just about strategy for us today. We actually did the same thing we did yesterday, but things went our way alittle more today, especially at the end."

Ronnie Russell set the pace for the United States with a six-game total of 1,429 and was joined by Marshall Kent (1,418), John Szczerbinski (1,363), Sean Rash (1,281), Rob Gotchall (689) and AJChapman (637).
As the week at Bolera Departamental went on and more players were added to each lane during competition, from two in singles and doubles to three in trios and five in team, the 44-foot London oil pattern broke down differently. Figuring that out was a key to Team USA's success down the stretch.

"The second game today was pretty important, and we were able to get past the things that slowed us down earlier," O'Keefe said. "The friction got to be too defined with the extra bowlers, compared to early in the week, so changing launch angles and going a little more up the lane paid off."

The all-events medalists also were determined Friday based on their 24-game pinfall totals (six games of singles, doubles, trios and team).

Canada's Zach Wilkins averaged more than 235 to earn the all-events gold medal with a 5,644 total, while Russell claimed silver with 5,605 and Wilkins' teammate, Mitch Hup‚, secured the bronze medal with a 5,548 effort. Team USA's Kent missed an all-events medal by 12 pins.
"I've been struggling as of late, so for me to come here and bowl well with, and for my team, means a lot," said Russell, who rolled one of five perfect games this week at Bolera Departamental. "Bowling well individually was great, but the team event is what we came here for. To win gold and get redemption for last year is incredible."

TRIOS
After dominating the first two days of competition, the representatives from Team USA faltered slightly Wednesday, while Canada cruised to the trios gold medal in record fashion.

Zach Wilkins, Mitch Hupé and Francois Lavoie averaged more than 236 as a team on the way to a
4,255 six-game total, 76 pins better than the previous mark of 4,179 posted by Bill O’Neill, Mike Fagan and Chris Barnes of the United States at the 2011 event in Guadalajara, Mexico.

Wilkins rolled five games over 240 at Bolera Departamental on Wednesday to lead his team with a 1,486 effort.
Hupé and Lavoie, the doubles bronze medalists who both rolled perfect games this week, added 1,409 and 1,360 respectively.

Team USA’s
Ronnie Russell( 1 , 4 1 4 , including 300 in the opening game), AJ Chapman (1,256) and Marshall Kent (1,250) earned the silver medal with a 3,920 effort.
All three players doubled in the final frame to move past Mexico’s Arturo Quintero (1,333), Alejandro Montijo (1,325) and Andre Fors (1,229),
who grabbed the bronze with a 3,887 performance, outdistancing Colombia’s Andres Gomez, Santiago
Mejia and Manuel Otalora by 22 pins.

The gold medalists bowled on the day’s first squad, just a few lanes away from the Team USA trio of Sean Rash (1,285), Rob Gotchall (1,274) and John Szczerbinski (1,236), who were admittedly impressed with Canada’s performance on the 44-foot London oil pattern, while going on to finish eighth overall with a 3,795 total.

Rather than be discouraged by the performance, Rash and company used the block as an opportunity to continue learning the characteristics of the bowling center and how the lanes transition, especially as the amount of traffic increases from four on a pair in singles and doubles to six for trios and eventually 10 per pair for team competition, which begins Thursday.

Rash posted a record score Monday on the way to singles gold, and Szczerbinski claimed the silver medal. Szczerbinski then carried his momentum into doubles Tuesday, where he earned the gold medal with AJ Chapman, just 20 pins ahead of their teammates Marshall Kent and Ronnie Russell.
But, what has changed, if the oil pattern is the same for the duration of the tournament?

“People are moving farther left as the week goes on, and we didn’t chase it fast enough,” said Rash, who led his team with a 1,285 trios set. “We got tripped up in
the transition, too, and just never got much going. Canada bowled extremely well today, and anytime you bowl next to someone shooting big numbers, it adds a little pressure. We didn’t bowl as well as we would’ve liked, but we’re still collecting as much info as possible before the start of the team event tomorrow.”

Team USA’s other trio of Kent, Russell and Chapman strategically were put together on the later squad for two reasons. The first simply to keep the bowlers who played the lanes similar together, and the second being because the guys who were able to play more direct have scored better earlier in the day this week.

Barnes, who made the transition from player to assistant coach for this week’s event, had a unique perspective in seeing the trios record broken. At the same time, he, too, was taking mental notes.

“Canada put on an exhibition this morning, for sure, and found success with stronger, earlier-
rolling covers and cores, while we went with the same game plan that worked so well for us the first few days,” Barnes said. “Because of how we started this week, we probably stayed with the plan a little too long today. At the same time, Zach was doing some things today no one else had been able to do, Mitch continued to bowl well, and, Frankie, a shot maker, is always in the mix.”
Barnes also noted how well the champions handled the transition in Game 5, compared to the rest of the field, which really helped them separate themselves in the standings.

Now, Barnes and Bryan O’Keefe will look at the scores from the week and determine which five Team USA players will bowl the first team set when they take the lanes Thursday at 3 p.m. Eastern. The first squad of team competition gets underway at
11 a.m. EDT.

“The benchmark for making Team USA is how well you do different things, and we’ll need that flexibility moving forward,” Barnes said. “We probably won’t change things too much, and it’s always good when people can play to their strengths. We’ve had a great week overall, and I feel like we’re in a pretty good mindset heading into tomorrow.”

DOUBLES

Team USA's AJ Chapman knows he has what it takes to compete on the biggest stages in bowling, and he proved it to his fellow competitors as he teamed with John Szczerbinski to claim the doubles gold medal.

Chapman has progressed through the Junior Team USA and USBC Collegiate programs but hasn't rushed the process, knowing a professional bowling career is possible and likely, but completing his degree in sport management is hisfirst priority - or second behind his upcoming appearance on the medal stand.
The 22-year-old right-hander graduated to a new competitive plateau Tuesday with a six-game total of 1,398 at Bolera Departamental, which lifted him and Szczerbinski (1,388) to a 2,786 winning total.

The victory marked the first medal of any kind for Chapman in PABCON Adult Championships competition. Szczerbinski earned the silver medal in singles Monday.
The two bowled on the first squad of the day and dodged a few close calls, including their teammates, Marshall Kent (1,405) and Ronnie Russell (1,361), who finished with a 469 game and claimed the silver medal with a 2,766 total.

"It's hard to put into words what it means to bowl for your country and have Team USA on your back, and to bowl well, especially in a team environment, makes it even more special," said Chapman, a winner at the 2015 Intercollegiate Team Championships with Wichita State. "I have complete trust in John getting up there and throwing the important shots, and I know he feels the same way. Our communication today was solid, and that goes back to our college days. That's something WSU does really well."

Canada's Francois Lavoie and Mitch Hupe, both products of the Wichita State bowling program, also had a shot at the lead heading into the final frames, but the run was slowed when Hupe left a 7-10 split in the seventh frame. That left both players needing to strike on at least their next four shots.

Their chance at gold or silver ended when Hupe left, and missed, the 3-10 split in the ninth frame. Lavoie continued to strike, however, and finished with the fourth perfect game of the tournament, joining his teammates Hupe (singles), David Simard (doubles) and Colombian star Andres Gomez (singles).

Lavoie (1,386) and Hupe (1,369) earned the bronze medal with a 2,755 effort, 68 pins ahead of Venezuela's Reydnier Chavez and
Ildemaro Ruiz (2,687).

Competition continues Wednesday with two squads of trios, beginning at
10 a.m. Eastern.

The teams for the United States are Szczerbinski, Sean Rash and Rob Gotchall on the morning squad, and Chapman, Kent and Russell on the afternoon shift.

Gotchall (1,297) and Rash (1,222) finished 20th in doubles with a 2,519 total. The doubles medal ceremony will take place at
Bolera Departamental on Wednesday afternoon.

As Chapman prepares for trios and team competition, he's looking forward to more time on the lanes with his experienced teammates and is excited about competing against them full-time after he graduates in December. He'll aim for employment in the pro shop industry, coupled with life on the PBA Tour.

"I'm proud that I'll have a degree to fall back on, and my time at WSU also really helped prepare me for my bowling career," Chapman said. "I don't think I'd be on Team USA if it weren't for the great mental and physical coaching, camaraderie and supportive bowling community in Wichita."

Even just three days into the PABCON Adult Championships, this week also has been a terrific learning experience for Chapman.
"I may not have a huge amount of experience on the bigger stages, but I have a fair amount for being just 22," said Chapman, who finished third at the
2016 United States National Amateur Bowling Championships. "Bowling with these guys pushes me to be better. I want to bowl as well as them and hopefully accomplish some of the things they have. I'm definitely looking forward to the rest of the week."

SINGLES

Team USA's Sean Rash said he's never been to South America, and his first visit included a dramatic entrance as he arrived with minutes to spare before his singles squad.

After a day of travel that lasted more than 14 hours and landed him in three countries, Rash inally made it to Bolera Departamental. He quickly put on his bowling shoes, took a deep breath and averaged 247 over six games to win the singles gold medal with a record score of 1,482.
The 34-year-old right-hander fired bookend 289 games to outdistance fellow Team USA member John Szczerbinski, who shot 1,475 a squad earlier, and hold off Colombian teammates Manuel Otalora and Andres Gomez, who both had a shot at the lead going into the final frames.

Gomez started the block with the second perfect game of the event and was the front-runner going into the finale, before being derailed by a pair of splits late in the game.

Rash had the most ground to make up and then needed two strikes and three pins in his final frame to pass Szczerbinski and lock out Otalora, who held on for the bronze medal with a 1,466 total. Opening-squad leader Marshall Kent of the United States fell three pins short of a medal (1,463) and Gomez dropped to fifth with 1,454.

"I walked in at about 6:25, was taped up and ready to bowl at 6:40 and things got started shortly after," said Rash, who rescheduled his flights to Colombia after qualifying for two TV shows at the Professional Bowlers Association Fall Swing last week in the Detroit area. "We knew it was going to be close. If I made it, I made it. If not, I'd be here and ready for doubles. Luckily, it all worked out." The men's singles record at the PABCON
Championships previously belonged to Team USA's Bill O'Neill, rolled at the 2009 event in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and was matched by Szczerbinski on Monday with three strikes in his final frame.

While traveling, Rash kept up with the scores from the first two squads, and his Team USA teammates provided as much info as they could about the bowling center and 44-foot London oil pattern being used this week.

Szczerbinski also qualified for one of the TV shows at the PBA Fall Swing and missed Sunday's official practice session, but the
confidence and momentum from making his first domestic championship-round appearance really helped keep his armswing loose Monday during singles.

"I'm confident, and I feel like I'm throwing the ball really well right now, but the info from the rest of the guys and the extra eyes behind me were pretty big factors today," Szczerbinski said. "It's nice to be off to such a great start here, both personally and as a team."

Rash, an eight-time Team USA member, knows how important the hot start can be in reaching their primary goals for the week.
"It means a lot to win today, but I'm even more proud of how well we bowled as a team, with all six guys finishing in the top 13," Rash said. "Our main goal is to win the team gold. It was pretty disappointing not to win it last time (2015), but Colombia bowled great and deserved it. We're motivated this year, though, and we have the early momentum. Hopefully, we can carry that into the rest of the week."

Article was posted with permission from Stars & Strikes, America's Bowling Newsmagazine. www.starsandstrikesbowling.com