Leaderboards completely rewritten at 2021 USBC Open Championships

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By Matt Cannizzaro, David Waswo and Marissa Woolard
USBC Communications

With the United States Bowling Congress Open Championships being condensed in 2021 and featuring more squads per day than ever before, along with competition being held simultaneously in two venues, the potential for excitement and lead changes has grown considerably.

That potential became reality Friday at both the South Point Bowling Plaza and South Point Bowling Center, as the Regular Division got big scores and new leaders in every event, and the Standard Division experienced a bit of a shakeup, too.

At the South Point Bowling Plaza, Nicholas J's Pro Shop 2 of La Crosse, Wisconsin, already had attracted a crowd of fans and fellow competitors simply by reputation and track record alone, and the group didn't disappoint in 2021, posting games of 1,057, 1,131 and 1,099 for a 3,287 total.

The team featured three of the 2012 Regular Team champions, so they aren't strangers to the pressures of climbing the leaderboard at the sport's premier event, but this year's team event required a little different thinking and game plan.

"This year was tricky compared to others, since there's only one team on a pair of lanes," said Heilman, who made his 17th appearance on the tournament lanes. "We were honestly afraid this year wasn't going to happen, but we were so excited when we found out."

Andy Mills led the way this year for Nicholas J's Pro Shop 2 with a 728 series. He was joined on the lanes by Rob Warren (678), Heilman (647), Trevor Yonan (623) and Chris VanAkkeren (611).

Nicholas J's Pro Shop 1 also bowled well Friday, improving from a 944 start with games of 1,030 and 1,088 for a 3,062 total. Geoff Schewe led the team with a 695 series and was followed by Collin Fakler (663), Greg Pizl (604), Matt Mysliwiec (573) and Thomas York (527). Pizl and Mysliwiec also were on the winning team in 2012.

"It's always good to see our name up on that leaderboard, but we never expect it," Heilman said. "Our entire team did great. We always just strive to be our best, and that's what we came here to do."

While Heilman and his teammates were making their run, The Cheese State also was well-represented during doubles and singles at the South Point Bowling Center.

FenskeTodd2021OCForWeb300x169Todd Fenske of Wausau, Wisconsin, turned in the best overall performance of his 24 years at the Open Championships and helped set the early standard for the tournament's most coveted category, Team All-Events.

The 45-year-old right-hander cruised into the lead in Regular Singles with games of 257, 265 and 237 for a 759 total, while consistent efforts in team (704) and doubles (698) across two oil patterns and venues, gave him more than enough to land at the top of the Regular All-Events standings with 2,161.

Jeffrey Sisson of Marion, Ohio, previously held the singles lead with 736, and Douglas Heimos of St. Louis was the man to beat in all-events with 2,120.

Fenske set the pace for his Striking Edge Pro Shop teammates, who made a run at the team lead Thursday and continued that momentum Friday on the way to a 9,831 Team All-Events total, more than 400 pins better than any other team through nearly a week of competition in 2021.

He was joined in the effort by Brian Mattmiller (2,019), Bradley Cieslewicz (1,973), Nicholas Plouff (1,866) and Dale Hackbart (1,812).

The Team All-Events title is determined by the combined all-events totals of all five team members.

Earlier in the same doubles and singles squad at the Bowling Center, Arizona's David Cirigliano and Steven Roberts set the series of lead changes in motion with a 1,346 doubles effort.

RobertsStevenCiriglianoDavid2021OCForWeb300x169Cirigliano, one of three bowlers in Open Championships history with three perfect games on the championship lanes, led the pair with a 709 series, while Roberts added 637. Tyler Vitelli of Annandale, New Jersey, and Darren Flynn of Hackettstown, New Jersey, had taken the lead in Regular Doubles earlier in the day with 1,340.

Friday's excitement wasn't limited to the Regular Division, as the Standard Division also had some noteworthy scores during doubles and singles competition.

The father-and-son team of Joseph Didion Sr. of Greenwood, Indiana, and Brandon Didion of Indianapolis soared into the Standard Doubles lead with a 1,257 total.

Joseph, 71, led the way with a 648 set, and Brandon added a 609 series to help the two past Reino Rantila of Lake Elmo, Minnesota, and Robert Hoffman of Cottage Grove, Minnesota, who previously held the lead with 1,205.

"This is very special, being that I bowled this with my son," Joseph Didion Sr. said. "I have bowled 41 previous Open Championships, but none will ever be this special."

Brandon, 33, is part owner of All Star Bowl in Indianapolis, along with his father. He, too, noted that regardless of the scores, missed opportunities or eventual results, finding success with his dad is the best reward.

Moments later, in Standard Singles, Erich Synstegard of Cottage Grove, Minnesota, fired a 693 series to take the lead, and the big finish propelled him into the lead in Standard All-Events with a 1,910 total, a career-best by nearly 200 pins.

The 45-year-old rolled a 652 series in his team event Thursday and added 565 in doubles to start the day Friday.

"I made almost all my spares and every 10 pin today, and I felt like the shot was very fair," said Synstegard, who made his 14th Open Championships appearance. "I had no idea I was leading two events, but I'm thrilled."

Richard Dyson of Woodlawn, Tennessee, previously held the lead in Standard Singles with 668, and Joshua Sattazahn of Hamburg, Pennsylvania, was the Standard All-Events leader with 1,858.

The 79-day run of the 2021 Open Championships kicked off May 1, and competition will continue daily through July 18. More than 7,700 five-player teams are expected to compete at South Point during the event.

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