ARLINGTON, Texas - Sean Wilcox of Altamonte Springs, Florida, has been a rising star in the youth ranks since a third-place finish in the 15-and-under division at the 2012 Junior Gold Championships.
He also has made a significant impact on the service side of the sport, earning United States Bowling Congress Youth Ambassador of the Year honors in 2015.
After finding his way into the national competitive spotlight during the 2019 USBC Team USA Trials, the 20-year-old right-hander now will make his Team USA debut at the 2019 Pan American Bowling Confederation Men's Championships in Lima, Peru.
The event will take place at the new Bowling Center of La Villa Deportiva Nacional (VIDENA) from April 22-28. It is the same bowling center that will be used during the 2019 Pan American Games next summer.
"When I was younger, I knew professional bowling was a thing, but I had no idea there was a Team USA or that the team traveled to bowl in other countries," said Wilcox, who will be making his first trip out of the United States. "The more I learned about it, the more I wanted to be a part of it. I wanted to put myself in position to be chosen to be one of those guys."
Wilcox will be joined in Peru by Perry Crowell IV of Chesterfield, Michigan; AJ Johnson of Oswego, Illinois; John Janawicz of Winter Haven, Florida; Nick Pate of Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota; and Darren Tang of Las Vegas.
The group hasn't spent too much time together, except for a week during the Team USA Pan Am Trials in early March, but will spend a few days at the International Training and Research Center prior to leaving for Peru. It will give them a chance to work on their communication, as well as get a feel for the 41-foot World Bowling Rome oil pattern they'll face in Peru.
Though there may not be enough time for the players to formally determine their roles within the group, Wilcox didn't hesitate when asked what he thinks he can offer.
"I want to be uplifting," Wilcox said. "We can't let the team get down because that will bring the scores down, too. I want to help keep the team motivated and excited and hungry and always ready to strike. I don't get too excited if I'm bowling individually, but I really get amped up when I'm bowling with a team."
Competition at the PABCON Men's Championships will kick off with singles April 23. The week will include doubles, trios, team and Masters competition. Medals also will be awarded for all-events.
The tournament will include teams from North, Central and South America and the Caribbean.
Internationally, only Janawicz and Johnson have represented Team USA on the lanes, collecting dozens of medals in a combined 12 previous appearances on Team USA. Johnson most recently helped the Team USA men to the team gold medal at the 2017 World Bowling World Championships in Las Vegas.
Wilcox and Janawicz already have a rapport thanks to their Florida roots, and Johnson was a fellow competitor during much of Wilcox's youth success. As the youngest member of the team, Wilcox is looking forward to getting to learn from his teammates, which is different from his role at home, where he often serves as the mentor to the Sunshine State's young players.
It's his passion for "paying it forward" that helped earn Wilcox recognition as an ambassador and mentor.
"One thing I've always wanted to do is give back and share my knowledge with the younger bowlers," Wilcox said. "Sometimes, that means giving advice. Sometimes, it means giving them a bowling ball or two to help their progress. I just want the kids to look at me and see how young I am and see what's possible. I want them to have the same fire in their eyes that I did at their age."
Despite his age, Wilcox is familiar with top-tier competition. After three years of high school bowling, he decided to join the Professional Bowlers Association, where he found quick success, earned a regional title and garnered some attention on the national tour.
At the same time, he's focused on earning a degree in sales and marketing, with a long-term goal of being a paramedic.
Wilcox definitely does not lack motivation, and he's ready to help Team USA collect some medals at the PABCON Men's Championships.
"Representing the United States and winning titles on the PBA Tour are the two things I want to do in my career," said Wilcox, who won six medals at the 2014 Lee Evans Tournament of the Americas as a member of the Team USA U15 Developmental Team. "Making Junior Team USA was my first goal, and also getting selected to the adult team was a dream come true. I'm just so humbled and grateful to have this opportunity, and it means the world to me."
Pate, a two-time Team USA member, is one of the two Team USA men who qualified for the 2019 Pan Am Games, along with 2019 USBC Masters champion Jakob Butturff of Tempe, Arizona, through a performance-based qualifying process. Pate is extra eager for his international debut and a first look at the bowling center that also will be used for the Pan Am Games.
"Being able to compete in an event for Team USA is something I dreamed of as a younger bowler but never expected to happen this early into my career, since I'm only 24," said Pate, who has competed overseas individually in three foreign countries. "And to also qualify for the Pan Am Games - I'm speechless. It's the closest thing bowling has to the Olympics, and it's such a special opportunity."
The two Team USA women joining Pate and Butturff in Peru will be determined at the upcoming USBC Queens.
For more information on Team USA, visit BOWL.com/TeamUSA.