Brandolino, Furukawa take U18 titles at 2023 Junior Gold Championships

INDIANAPOLIS - Aidan Furukawa of Sunbury, Ohio, and Gianna Brandolino of Joliet, Illinois, were the national champions in the 18-and-under division at the 2023 Junior Gold Championships.

Aidan took home the U18 boys title by defeating Andrew Robitaille of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, 197-181, during the final match of this year's tournament.

Any good bowler will tell you that making spares is crucial to being successful on the lanes, and that fact was on full display during this championship bout.

Aidan didn’t record a double and only struck four times in total, but he also made each and every spare conversion he was forced to contend with.

Andrew, meanwhile, was saddled with four splits in the first seven frames, and despite some very solid spare attempts, each split led to an open frame.

Those opens outweighed any and all benefits created by his six strikes and allowed Aidan to wrap up the victory before the 10th frame was completed.

Aidan didn’t come to Junior Gold 2023 with victory on his mind, so the gravity of what he had just accomplished hadn’t yet sunk in during the moments immediately following the match.

“My only goal coming into this year was to try to make the first cut, so the fact that I won and am now on Junior Team USA is a lot to take in,” Aidan said. “This feels amazing, but it’s going to take a while to really comprehend how it feels.”

Another thing that took a moment to comprehend was how nerve-racking it was to bowl on TV for a national title.

Aidan appeared to be handling that pressure just fine as he was smiling and playing to the crowd from the moment he walked onto the set.

However, according to Aidan, the relaxed, lighthearted appearance on the outside masked what he was truly feeling inside.

“I looked calm, but deep down I was terrified,” Aidan said. “I just did my best not to let that show on the outside.”

He definitely accomplished that, but his more impressive accomplishments were taking home the U18 title and earning his first berth on Junior Team USA.

Again, those goals weren’t necessarily on his list at the start of this year’s tournament, but he is certainly glad that he’ll be able to add both to his resume from this point forward.

“I’ve never accomplished anything like this before, so getting this win and earning my way onto Junior Team USA definitely ranks first among anything I’ve ever done,” Aidan said. “I didn’t expect to get here, but being here feels amazing.”

Andrew earned the opportunity to play spoiler by using a late five-bagger to erase an early deficit and rally past No. 2 seed Daniel Robertson, 226-214, in the semifinals.

Andrew’s momentum slowed during the championship match, however, which allowed Aidan to walk away as champion while Andrew settled for third place.

U18 Girls

Gianna delighted her sizable cheering section by coming away with the U18 girls crown by virtue of a 228-202 defeat of Karina Capron of Fremont, Nebraska.

Karina certainly didn’t go down without a fight, throwing a clutch four-bagger in frames six through nine to force Gianna to get a strike and six pins in the 10th frame to win.

The top seed proved that she was up to the challenge, however, getting the all-important strike and then counting nine on her next ball to officially lock up her first Junior Gold title.

Despite her young age, Gianna has already accomplished plenty on the lanes; nevertheless, becoming a Junior Gold champion immediately jumped to the top of her personal list of achievements.

“Winning today, by far, ranks first among all the wins I’ve had so far,” Brandolino said. “Me and my team won the USA Bowling Championships last year, and that was No. 1 at the time, but winning this has a different feeling. Knowing that I accomplished this by myself is just great.”

Gianna was certainly great during the title match, staying clean and using an opening double and a turkey in the sixth, seventh and eighth frames to keep the advantage firmly on her side.

That advantage was bolstered by the fact that Karina left a pair of early splits that led to open frames.

Still, Karina wasn’t about to give up, and when she came up with that late four-bagger, suddenly, Gianna had something to think about.

A lesser player may have stumbled as the pressure mounted, but not Gianna. Perhaps that’s because her mom often seems to be willing to fact that pressure for the both of them.

“I’d like to say that I’m the one who’s the most nervous in those big moments, but it’s probably my mom,” Gianna said. “She’s always pacing up and down. She just wants the best for me. I want the best for myself too, so I just have to push the nerves aside and go out and do what I do.”

What she did on Saturday night was capture her first Junior Gold title, and that’s a memory she won’t soon forget.

“It’s an honor to know that my name is going to be on the same banner as players like Landin Jordan and Stefanie Johnson,” Gianna said. “Also, it’s crazy to think that next year I’m going to come and see my name and picture listed among the champions.”

Karina was hoping to add her name to that exclusive list on Saturday night, but that goal will have to wait at least one more year.

Still, she performed admirably all night long.

She earned her place in the title match by doubling in the 10th frame to beat No. 3 seed Kaitlyn Stull of Raleigh, North Carolina, 231-226, during a thrilling U18 girls semifinal.

Then, she fought hard and gave Gianna all she could handle before eventually running out of frames and being forced to settle for third-place honors.

Junior Team USA 2024
Six boys and six girls from the U18 division also earned spots on Junior Team USA for 2024 based on their performances this week at the Junior Gold Championships.

The boys team will feature Furukawa, Robitaille, Braden Mallasch of Waupaca, Wisconsin; Christian Liquori of Merritt Island, Florida; Garrett Andrus of Austin, Texas; and Josh Hammons of Topeka, Kansas.

Brandolino, Capron, and Stull will be joined on the girls team in 2024 by Victoria Varano of Stony Point, New York; Erin Klemencic of Powder Springs, Georgia; and Katelyn Abigania of San Diego.

The U18 division featured 588 girls and 1,313 boys at the 2023 Junior Gold Championships. 

More than 3,250 United States Bowling Congress Youth members competed at Junior Gold 2023, traveling across six bowling centers in the Indianapolis area in hopes of winning a sizable portion of the approximately $450,000 scholarship fund, making a run at a national title and claiming a spot on Junior Team USA. provided livestream coverage of every round of the 2023 event leading up to the stepladder finals in each division. 

The finals in each division were taped for broadcast on CBS Sports Network and played throughout the month of August. The final telecast in the series will feature the U20 stepladder finals and will air on Tuesday, Aug. 29 at 7 p.m. Eastern.