New York group breaks through at 2016 USBC Open Championships

RENO, Nev. - After standing for almost six weeks, the leading score in Team All-Events at the 2016 United States Bowling Congress Open Championships has been beaten twice in 24 hours, most recently by HornswogglerS of Staten Island, New York, with a 9,719 total.

Four members of the group have competed together on the biggest stage in bowling since 2013, and they refused to settle for another close call, a run that includes a runner-up finish in Team All-Events in 2013 and a missed opportunity in Regular Team at the National Bowling Stadium on Saturday night.

This time, though, locking up the lead landed on the shoulders of new team member Manuel Gonzales of Fords, New Jersey, who bowled doubles and singles one pair of lanes to the right of his teammates and needed a mark and count in his final frame to lift the team past the 9,710 posted by Bowling of Phoenix a day earlier.

Gonzales picked up a 7 pin and struck on his fill ball to complete the task, but he didn't know why the rest of the group was so excited.

"I hadn't tried to do the math, so I didn't know anything," said Gonzales, who made his 11th USBC Open Championships appearance. "I just wanted to make good shots all the way through, and, at that point, I was focused on trying to shoot 240. It's my first year with these guys, and I know they're contenders every year, so I wanted to bowl well and hopefully get invited back."

Gonzales led HornswogglerS with a 1,994 all-events total, which included 695 in doubles, 658 in singles and 641 in team. He was followed by Dan Dunleavy (1,993), Rusty Thomsen (1,943), Alex Cavagnaro (1,939) and Ray Smarsh (1,850).

The members of HornswogglerS entered the NBS on Sunday slightly disappointed about their team finish Saturday, which landed them in third place in Regular Team with a 3,237 total, but they also used it as motivation and a nice head start for Team All-Events.

Their 2013 bid for the Team All-Events title saw them just 43 pins behind eventual winner, Junior Team USA Support 1 of Mansfield, Texas, and a solid performance in El Paso, Texas, in 2015 left them in sixth place as Junior Team USA Support 1 again claimed the crown.

Until this weekend, it was the defending champions, now hailing from Eagan, Minnesota, perched atop the Team All-Events standings for 41 days, before Bowling rolled through Reno. Bowling leads Regular Team this year with 3,300.

With Team All-Events being a marathon of sorts, with the tally including 45 games of pinfall (the combined all-events scores of all five team members), one break or miscue in the nine games might disappear into the sea of strikes and spares. This time, Thomsen's conversion of the 7-10 split along the way might be as talked about as Gonzales' final frame.

"Four years ago, we put this team together with the goal being to win an eagle," said Dunleavy, the team captain, who made his 13th march down Center Aisle this year. "We've had a few close calls, including last night. We came in a little disappointed today, but we knew there was another mission, which was Team All-Events, and last night provided a little more fire."

Past success for the group includes a third-place finish in Regular Doubles for Cavagnaro in 2011 (with Anthony Pepe of East Elmhurst, New York) and a perfect game in singles for Thomsen in 2013, but nothing can compare to leaving as the leaders.

"You can't win unless you take the lead, so it's nice to be in that position," said Dunleavy, who regularly bowls at Staten Island's Rab's Country Lanes. "There definitely will be a lot of scoreboard watching, but we're glad to be the ones everyone's trying to beat."

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