Junior Gold Notebook – Day 3: Stepping Up


DETROIT – Competitors at the 2019 Junior Gold Championships presented by the Brands of Ebonite not only are competing for titles, but those in the 20-and-under division also can earn a spot on Junior Team USA.

That’s why 14-year-old Jillian Martin of Stow, Ohio, decided to compete in the U20 division.

“I want to give myself a chance to do something special,” said Jillian, who led the division after the second round and put together a 797 block Wednesday at AMF Rose Bowl Lanes. “One of my major goals is to make Junior Team USA.”

Going head-to-head with the best U20 players, including top collegiate players, doesn’t faze Jillian, especially after competing against the best professional bowlers at the U.S. Women’s Open last month. She stepped up in the final frame of that event with a chance to strike out and make the cut.

“I wanted to throw the ball, just get it off my hand, and ended up rushing the shot,” said Jillian, who finished tied for 41st in the 108-player field. “That was a crazy experience. It was really hard but I had a lot of fun doing it and I definitely will be doing it again.”

She won the state high school individual title in her freshman year and helped her team to a third-place finish. She also won the 2018 Bowling.com Youth Open U15 scratch singles title in Dallas.

Breakthrough block
Brody Wildenmann of Somerset, Pennsylvania, didn’t exactly start his first Junior Gold Championships the way he wanted, but he did have the highest set of the U15 squad bowling the afternoon session at AMF Rose Bowl on Wednesday.

Brody had games of 218, 202, 221 and 225 for an 866 block.

“The last couple of days haven’t been going my way,” Brody said. “I came in today with the goal of at least getting one 200 (game) because I haven’t had one yet, and I shot four. So, I’m pretty happy with that.”

On the plus side
Jason Wichnovitz of Staten Island, New York, took a run at a 300 game in his U17 squad at Astro Lanes on Wednesday. Bowling in his sixth Junior Gold, he struck on his first nine shots in the final game and, while he didn’t complete the perfect game, the 279 game helped him post a 923 block in one of the more difficult centers.

“Honestly, it’s a huge confidence boost because I was coming off a performance where I went 90-under (at Skore Lanes) and I was in 90th place,” Jason said. “I’ve never went plus in a block at Junior Gold until the first day and I went plus-10. Second day, I went 90-under. So, I knew I had to play it safe today but it turned out good for me.”

Home cooking
Lawrence Tech, located in Southfield, Michigan, announced itself to the college bowling world in April by reaching the finals of the Intercollegiate Team Championships in just its second appearance. And now the Junior Gold Championships is in the Blue Devils’ backyard.

Chad Stephen, who is from Flint, Michigan, and an electrical engineering major at Lawrence Tech, is making his final appearance in the Junior Gold Championships. He admitted it was fun in past years to travel to Junior Gold locations but said, “it is kind of nice to stay at home, and rest and relax there.”

And the Blue Devils’ appearance in the ITC title match obviously made an impact on younger bowlers who are looking at colleges with bowling programs.

“At the trade show, we had our booth set up and we were swarmed,” said Chad, who also is a member of Junior Team USA. “I was surprised, a lot of people were really interested. I’m hoping we’ll get some good recruits.”

Listen to your mom
When your parents both are talented bowlers (and coaches), you likely are going to receive tips on a regular basis, especially the always important “make your spares.”

Angelo Biondo of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, likely has heard that phrase a million times but it’s probably one of the reasons he’s made match play the last two years and is on pace to do so again at the 2019 Junior Gold Championships.

In sixth place after the first two rounds, he posted a 919 set in the U17 squad at Astro Bowl on Wednesday.

“During the practice session, I didn’t have a very good look,” Angelo said. “I actually didn’t hit the pocket once. So, I just tried a whole bunch of different stuff for the 10 minutes we got for practice today and I ended up finding a decent line that stuck with me. I just tried to stay out of trouble and make spares.”

Angelo said the best advice he could give someone bowling in Junior Gold is to stay calm, make spares and don’t let bad shots ruin your game. He also said his mom, Joey, has helped him through the process.

“She’s been really supportive and positive, which has helped a lot,” Angelo said. “She’s telling to make my spares because she’s all about spares.”

Back in the mix
After the first two rounds of qualifying at the Junior Gold Championships, Mabel Cummins of Elburn, Illinois, was in 163rd place and looking for a way to get back into contention. AMF Rose Bowl Lanes provided the avenue.

The center has produced some of the highest scores of the event over the first few days of qualifying and Cummins continued the trend with a 926 block on games of 221, 193, 279 and 233. It was the high set of the squad.

“My first two days were kind of rough,” said Mabel, the 2016 Junior Gold U15 winner. “I had some things going on physically that weren’t really lining up with what I was trying to do, which led to me missing more spares than I would like to count. But today, I got everything back in line.”

Madison McCall of North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, was 72nd before starting the block with a 264 game and eventually posted an 880 pinfall total for the four games.

“The first two days were a little rocky, not like what I expected,” said Madison, who will be a junior at Tulane in the fall. “Coming into the week, I just wanted to keep a clear mindset every day because, though it’s not really a long tournament, every day gives you a new opportunity. I feel like I did a good job with that today, after the first two days not being exactly what I wanted.”

Together again
At the 2016 Bowling.com Youth Open Championships in Indianapolis, Dream Team captured the U12 scratch team title by 329 pins. The four team members are back together, somewhat.

At the 2019 Junior Gold Championships, those four players – Jordan Malott of Austin, Texas; Anthony Mastroianni of Brooklyn, New York; Alexander Horton of Douglassville, Pennsylvania; and Brandon Bohn of Jackson, New Jersey – held the top four spots, in that order, in the U15 boys division at the start of Wednesday’s action.

Jordan and Brandon each rolled a 975 series in the second round – Jordan had 803 over his final three games – while Anthony had an 865 set and Alex posted an 860 in the second of the four qualifying rounds. Jordan was at Bowl One Lanes while the other three were at AMF Rose Bowl on Tuesday.

Jordan made the trek to AMF Rose Bowl on Wednesday and posted an 835 series.

“It was a struggle for me today,” Jordan said. “But this is the best I’ve bowled in Junior Gold. I’m just trying to stay plus for every block, make my spares and stay consistent.”

2016YO-TeamChampsThe 2016 Youth Open scratch team champion of Jordan Malott , Brandon Bohn, Alex Horton and Anthony Mastroianni.  

How to make Junior Team USA
The top competitors at the 2019 Junior Gold Championships can earn spots on Junior Team USA or one of the two developmental teams, depending on their age.

The top four male and top four female age-eligible bowlers in the U20 divisions at the conclusion of 26 qualifying games automatically qualify for Junior Team USA. Athletes must be age 20 or younger as of Jan. 1, and if the top qualifiers in the division do not meet the age requirement, the selection goes to the next age-eligible athlete. In addition, the top two male and top two female age-eligible finalists in the double-elimination match-play bracket of the U20 divisions automatically qualify for the team.

The top age-eligible male and female bowler in the U15 divisions after 26 qualifying games and the U15 bracket champions, automatically qualify for the U15 Developmental Team. They must be age 15 or younger as of Jan. 1 to be eligible. The same selection process is used for the U17 Developmental Team and individuals must be age 17 or younger as of Jan. 1.