United States leads team event at 2019 PABCON Men's Championships

Team standings

LIMA, Peru -
Eight days ago, a group of bowling acquaintances walked into the International Training and Research Center in Arlington, Texas.

The six competitors had many things in common - bowling balls, passports, plane tickets to Peru, passion for bowling and over-the-top pride in the USA. But, as much as they were similar, they also were incredibly different.

A main goal of their Lone-Star rendezvous was to determine how they could capitalize on each other's strengths and cancel out each other's weaknesses to find success at the this week's Pan American Bowling Confederation Men's Championships.

Individually, all six are very talented and accomplished, and they compete against one another often, but the impromptu training camp gave the players and Team USA coaches a chance to learn each other's personalities, analyze their games and physical nuances, gauge the type of players they are mentally and work on their communication.

Two and a half days and a seven-hour plane ride later, a cohesive unit touched down in Lima ready to test their newly acquired knowledge and skills at the new Bowling Center of La Villa Deportiva Nacional (VIDENA).

As the 2019 PABCON Men's Championships has progressed through unofficial practice, official practice, singles, doubles, trios and now team competition, the learning and growing have continued, and the group's chemistry was on full display Friday as Team USA rose to the top of the leaderboard.

Halfway through the six-game team competition, Team USA leads the 16-team field with a 3,512 total, a 234.13 team average. The group rolled games of 1,186, 1,234 and 1,092.

"It was really nice to get off to such a great start, especially because the lanes have been getting tricky later in the day," Team USA anchor Nick Pate said. "We did a great job talking and keeping everyone in it and picking each other up when it was needed. Communication and teamwork is a great recipe for success."

Friday's performance on the 41-foot World Bowling Rome oil pattern also included a pair of perfect games from Pate and Darren Tang, both making their international debuts with Team USA this week.

Tang led the overall effort for Team USA with a 750 series and was followed by Pate (709), John Janawicz (702), Sean Wilcox (693) and AJ Johnson (658). Perry Crowell IV bowled nearby as the sixth bowler and shot 722.

Canada's Mitch Hupe also rolled a 300 game, making him the second player with multiple 300s in PABCON Championships competition. His first came in 2016. Costa Rica's Marco Odio is the other. In all, there have been 16 perfect games tossed in the history of the PABCON Championships.

Puerto Rico finished the opening day of the 2019 team event with a 3,457 total and was followed by Canada (3,443), Colombia (3,396) and Venezuela (3,339).

Team USA is the defending champion in the team event, last contested at the 2016 PABCON Adult Championships in Cali, Colombia.

Competition at the 2019 tournament will resume Saturday morning with the final three games of the team event. Combined total pinfall from the two days (three games each day) will determine the gold, silver and bronze medalists.

The short day Friday now will give the 100 bowlers from 19 countries a chance to enjoy what this year's host city has to offer.

"We're actually looking forward to having a break tonight because it will give us a chance to enjoy Lima a little bit," Pate said. "It will be a nice stress reliever to get away from the grind for a while, but once those lights come on tomorrow, we'll be ready to get at it."

Competitors at the 2019 PABCON Men's Championships are competing for medals in singles, doubles, trios, team and Masters competition. Gold, silver and bronze medals also will be awarded in all-events based on the week's 24-game pinfall totals, and those also will be determined with the conclusion of the team event Saturday.

This week's tournament features countries from North, Central and South America and the Caribbean, including Argentina, Aruba, Bahamas, Bermuda, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, United States, Uruguay and Venezuela.

Team USA's success in Peru includes a silver medal in singles (Tang) and a record score on the way to the doubles gold medal (Johnson and Wilcox), but even though some of the accomplishments may be individual, they all were a result of the things they worked on and learned during their time at the ITRC last week.

Traditionally, Team USA meets once a year for a training camp, but given the timing of the 2019 PABCON Men's Championships, bringing the six players in for a few days and then traveling together made sense. It also was the first time Team USA head coach Rod Ross and assistant coach Mark Baker had a chance to work with a few of the players.

If it leads to more success, it might become a new tradition.

"I think that was very, very instrumental in our success this week," Johnson said. "It helped us get an understanding of all the players and how they see the lanes, how they operate and how they are emotionally. For sure, having those days gave me a chance to learn more about Sean as a player and teammate, and that helped me approach the doubles event a little differently, which quickly paid off. Everything just clicked, and I knew it only would get better in trios and team, the more time we spent together."

Tang agreed, and he spent the first two events sharing the lanes and exchanging thoughts and information with Janawicz, a nine-time Team USA member and United States Bowling Congress Hall of Famer, before Johnson joined them for trios. When they weren't on the lanes, they were in the stands as extra eyes for their teammates.

"We spent a couple of days together at the training center bonding as a team, working together and learning about each other, and we arrived in Peru focused on winning as many medals as we could as a team," Tang said. "It was the first time before an event they've done that, and I think it was really useful. It gave us a chance to communicate and work together. Unlike a lot of other countries and teams, we don't spend a lot of time together or train together very often, so it was nice."

This week's tournament is the first event to take place at the newly constructed bowling center, which is part of an expansive athletic complex that will be home to the 2019 Pan American Games this summer.

Pate will return for the Pan Am Games and be joined by 2019 USBC Masters champion Jakob Butturff. The two women who will represent Team USA with them will be determined at the upcoming USBC Queens.

For more information on the PABCON Men's Championships, visit PABCON.org.