CALI, Colombia - Team USA's A.J. Chapman knows he has what it takes to compete on the biggest stages in bowling, and he proved it to his fellow competitors at the 2016 Pan American Bowling Confederation Adult Championships on Tuesday as he teamed with John Szczerbinski to claim the doubles gold medal.
Chapman has progressed through the Junior Team USA and USBC Collegiate programs but hasn't rushed the process, knowing a professional bowling career is possible and likely, but completing his degree in sport management is his first priority - or second behind his upcoming appearance on the medal stand.
The 22-year-old right-hander graduated to a new competitive plateau Tuesday with a six-game total of 1,398 at Bolera Departamental, which lifted him and Szczerbinski (1,388) to a 2,786 winning total. The victory marked the first medal of any kind for Chapman in PABCON Adult Championships competition. Szczerbinski earned the silver medal in singles Monday.
The two bowled on the first squad of the day and dodged a few close calls, including their teammates, Marshall Kent (1,405) and Ronnie Russell (1,361), who finished with a 469 game and claimed the silver medal with a 2,766 total.
"It's hard to put into words what it means to bowl for your country and have Team USA on your back, and to bowl well, especially in a team environment, makes it even more special," said Chapman, a winner at the 2015 Intercollegiate Team Championships with Wichita State. "I have complete trust in John getting up there and throwing the important shots, and I know he feels the same way. Our communication today was solid, and that goes back to our college days. That's something WSU does really well."
Canada's Francois Lavoie and Mitch Hupe, both products of the Wichita State bowling program, also had a shot at the lead heading into the final frames, but the run was slowed when Hupe left a 7-10 split in the seventh frame. That left both players needing to strike on at least their next four shots.
Their chance at gold or silver ended when Hupe left, and missed, the 3-10 split in the ninth frame. Lavoie continued to strike, however, and finished with the fourth perfect game of the tournament, joining his teammates Hupe (singles), David Simard (doubles) and Colombian star Andres Gomez (singles).
Lavoie (1,386) and Hupe (1,369) earned the bronze medal with a 2,755 effort, 68 pins ahead of Venezuela's Reydnier Chavez and Ildemaro Ruiz (2,687).
Competition continues Wednesday with two squads of trios, beginning at 10 a.m. Eastern.
The teams for the United States are Szczerbinski, Sean Rash and Rob Gotchall on the morning squad, and Chapman, Kent and Russell on the afternoon shift.
Gotchall (1,297) and Rash (1,222) finished 20th in doubles with a 2,519 total.
The doubles medal ceremony will take place at Bolera Departamental on Wednesday afternoon.
As Chapman prepares for trios and team competition, he's looking forward to more time on the lanes with his experienced teammates and is excited about competing against them full-time after he graduates in December. He'll aim for employment in the pro shop industry, coupled with life on the PBA Tour.
"I'm proud that I'll have a degree to fall back on, and my time at WSU also really helped prepare me for my bowling career," Chapman said. "I don't think I'd be on Team USA if it weren't for the great mental and physical coaching, camaraderie and supportive bowling community in Wichita."
Even just three days into the PABCON Adult Championships, this week also has been a terrific learning experience for Chapman.
"I may not have a huge amount of experience on the bigger stages, but I have a fair amount for being just 22," said Chapman, who finished third at the 2016 United States National Amateur Bowling Championships. "Bowling with these guys pushes me to be better. I want to bowl as well as them and hopefully accomplish some of the things they have. I'm definitely looking forward to the rest of the week."
The 2016 PABCON Adult Championships includes more than a dozen countries, with more on the line than just gold medals.
The top eight men's teams and top eight women's teams will qualify for the combined 2017 World Championships in Kuwait. This will be determined by a combined total pinfall from the following categories in each division - top four singles scores, top two doubles scores, top trios set and pinfall in team competition.
The top two countries will qualify for the World Games, which is held every fourth year and next will be contested in Wroclaw, Poland, in July 2017. This will be a combined pinfall total for the top two men and top two women for each country during the 24 games at the PABCON event.
The United States, Venezuela and Colombia previously qualified for the 2017 World Games through the PABCON Champion of Champions event in Mexico last April.
The women hit the lanes at Bolera Departamental starting next Monday.
Visit BOWL.com/TeamUSA for more information on the Team USA program.
For complete scores from the PABCON Adult Championships, visit Pabcon.org.
2016 PABCON ADULT CHAMPIONSHIPS
At Bolera Departamental, Cali, Colombia
GOLD - A.J. Chapman/John Szczerbinski, United States, 2,786
SILVER - Marshall Kent/Ronnie Russell, United States, 2,766
BRONZE - Francois Lavoie/Mitch Hupe, Canada, 2,755