LAS VEGAS – Chris Via of Blacklick, Ohio, has become quite the showman on the lanes, and he turned in another memorable performance Saturday on the final squad of team competition at the 2021 United States Bowling Congress Open Championships.
The 29-year-old two-hander posted games of 289, 257 and 279 at the South Point Bowling Plaza for an 825 series, the highest set in any event at the USBC Open Championships since 2014.
He actually was on the team with Canada’s Graham Fach that year, as Fach rolled an 836 series in their team event. They went on to finish third in Regular Team.
Via now joins Team USA member Andrew Anderson of Holly, Michigan, on the list this year. Anderson shot 802 on the way to the Regular Singles lead in May.
“This is one of the things you get announced for each year before you bowl, so it’ll be cool to have that recognition for however long I come back and bowl,” said Via, whose 800 series was the 137th in tournament history. “It’s a career highlight that not many people have the chance to do here, and I’m excited to add it to my resume.”
Via, the 2021 U.S. Open champion and the owner of two televised 300s in Professional Bowlers Association Tour competition, opened his seventh Open Championships appearance Saturday with 10 consecutive strikes, before a flat 10 pin ended his run at the 21st perfect game this year at South Point.
“I could feel the urethane getting a little tired there toward the end of the first game, and I was struggling to make it go through the pins the right way,” Via said. “A lot of the shots went through the pins well, but I was having to trick it a little more each frame. The first one in the 10th was really good, but the second one didn’t come off my hand quite the way I wanted.”
He knew a ball change soon would be necessary, and anticipating the right moves helped him keep the momentum going. He stepped up in his final frame Saturday night needing a mark for 800, and he delivered.
Via made the task as simple as possible by striking on the first shot. He sent a messenger flying across the pin deck, and it tomahawked the 10 pin that slowed his pace in the opening game.
He added two more strikes, and his 29-strike effort helped TV Bowling Supply 1 to a 3,103 total, which will end up 125th overall. Unofficially, Before the 1st Frame 1 of Battleboro, North Carolina, will take home the Joe Norris Trophy and Regular Team Eagles with a 3,400 total.
Via’s U.S. Open title in April forced some changes to his team composition, but it didn’t take away from the overall experience or a memorable weekend that has included more than just bowling.
“I was excited coming in, and while winning the U.S. Open definitely was a career-changing moment for me, it also affected this tournament, since my original team had another professional on it,” Via said. “We had to move some things around, but we have three teams, so it worked out. We have 15 guys who have a lot of fun together, and it’s a fun tournament for us to just hang out and have a good time. Of course, we want to bowl well, but it’s a little more of a relaxed mindset, and I think that helped.”
Having only five bowlers on each pair of lanes during team competition, a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and social-distancing requirements, also worked to Via’s advantage Saturday.
“With only five bowlers on the pair, the lanes didn’t change quite as quickly, and I could see it a little better,” said Via, who earned a team gold medal at the Bowling Plaza during the 2017 International Bowling Federation World Championships. “The guys I was bowling with tonight were a little farther right than me, and I think that helped, too. Everything clicked, and it was one of those things that was just meant to be.”
Competition for the final team bowlers will shift to the South Point Bowling Center for a long final day of doubles and singles Sunday on the year’s second oil pattern.
Via will look to make a run at Anderson’s singles series, as well as Regular All-Events leader Sean Rash of Montgomery, Illinois, who tops the standings with a 2,264 nine-game total. Via will take the lanes at 8 p.m. Eastern, the tournament’s final squad, and have to average 240 over six games Sunday to catch Rash.
Along with bowling on the final squads of the 2021 Open Championships, the weekend’s excitement for Via and his teammates included a West Coast wedding and gender reveal party for former Junior Team USA members Michael and Mary (Wells) Tang, who officially were married in October.
“The wedding and gender reveal were a lot of fun, too, and a nice way to start the weekend,” Via said. “For those who didn’t see, they’re having a boy, and everyone was very excited for that, as well. We’ve all hung out, got some golf in and spent time with friends and family. It has been a really nice time.”
On the other side of the South Point Bowling Plaza on Saturday night, Him Bowling Events 7 of Chula Vista, California, made a run at the top spot in Standard Team, eventually settling into a tied for second place with a 2,994 total.
The team’s anchor, left-hander Brian Moldenhauer, made a bid for 300 in his final game, starting with nine consecutive strikes, before missing the headpin to the left on the first shot of his 10th frame.
He finished with a 276 game and 656 series, and his big finale helped the team to the highest game in the four-year history of the Standard Division – 1,133. It came after games of 867 and 994.
Moldenhauer was joined in the effort by Scott Bryant (622), Cale Collins (616), Mark Yee (592) and Charles Comella (508).
Proformance Team 2 of Clermont, Florida, held on to the top spot in Standard Team this year with 3,086.
The 2021 Open Championships kicked off its 79-day run on May 1. The event marked the first time in 117 years of tournament history that the tournament was held across two venues. All team competition took place at the Bowling Plaza, and all doubles/singles bowling has been held at the Bowling Center.
There will be four squads of doubles and singles competition Sunday, as the last of more than 38,000 bowlers try to claim one, or more, coveted Eagle trophies.
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