Reno, NEV. - After a solid performance last year, The Legend of Dung Ho of Cerritos, Calif., earned a spot on the live stream schedule at the 2013 United States Bowling Congress Open Championships and didn't disappoint, taking the Regular Team lead at the National Bowling Stadium on Thursday.
Hundreds of bowling fans tuned in to BowlTV to see the experienced team put together games of 969, 1,023 and 1,122 for a 3,114 total and cruise past previous leader, Sport Bowl Pro Shop of Middleton, Wis., which held the top spot with 3,038.
The Legend of Dung Ho anchor John Mongillo turned in his best set in 18 USBC Open Championships appearances, a 703 effort, to pace the group. He was followed by newcomer Michael Villarreal (683), Douglas Svela (620), Vayle Floria (571) and Scott Poddig (537).
Mongillo, Floria and Poddig have been bowling together at the Open Championships for nearly two decades. Poddig coached the two at California State University-Fullerton during the late 1990s, and the team play and communication they focused on in college continue to help them find success on bowling's biggest stage.
"The most important aspects are our teamwork and communication," said Poddig, who led Cal-State Fullerton to a national championship in 1989. "We know each other's games, and we talk a lot. It's always nice to get together as a group, and it makes it even nicer to be able to grind something out, so we can at least place."
Last year, The Legend of Dung Ho led the team event early on, eventually finishing in the top 75, and managed a 12th-place finish in Team All-Events. This time, the group was without 1992 Regular All-Events champion Michael Tucker, but Villarreal was able to step in and calmly perform under pressure.
"They told me they usually do fairly well in the team event, so there was some pressure, especially with me subbing for a guy with an eagle," said Villarreal, whose only other Open Championships appearance came in 2007. "I'm super relieved I didn't let them down, and it's even better to find out we're actually in the lead."
Villarreal, who is the pro shop operator at Poddig's bowling center, said the group discussed strategy earlier Thursday and found success by playing the same part of the lane and talking through the transition, something Poddig always has taught his bowlers.
The Legend of Dung Ho's companion team, Hit That Pin, included Rich Souddress, who Poddig coached in the 1980s. Hit That Pin rolled games of 919, 911 and 930 for a 2,760 total.
Dave Oesch led the way for Hit That Pin with a 619 series and was followed by Brent Miller (587), David Kovach (583), Souddress (529) and Sharon Nelson (442).
"There's isn't anyone in our group who doesn't think we have a chance to do well, even if we do occasionally throw a bad shot or two," said Poddig, a 52-year-old right-hander and the veteran of his team with 21 tournament appearances. "We all still enjoy the bowling part of this event, and that means a lot. We always come out and hope to do the best we can. One of my favorite things about these teams is that no one ever gives up. Even if it's the last game, a big finish could make a huge difference."
Thursday's live broadcast from the National Bowling Stadium was the first of nearly two dozen scheduled from The Biggest Little City in the World this year, as the Open and Women's Championships share the same host city for the first time in history.
The 2013 Open Championships kicked off March 1 and will run for 125 days, concluding July 7. The Women's Championships will be contested on 44 specially-constructed lanes at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center and run from April 12-July 1.
The next live broadcast from the NBS will be Sunday at 2 p.m. EST as former Professional Bowlers Association standout Curtis Odom hits the lanes for doubles and singles. It can be seen at YouTube.com/BowlTV.
In the Classified Division on Thursday, Merry Lanes 2 of Sanborn, Iowa, surged into the top spot in the team event with games of 746, 904 and 839 for a 2,489 total. KK Seeds of Calmar, Iowa, previously held the lead with 2,447.
Kenny Benz paced Merry Lanes 2 with a 557 series and was joined by Daniel Stofferan (518), Landon Dather (510), Delmer Lee Lode (460) and Terry Jaycox (444).
Presenting sponsors for the 2013 USBC Open Championships include Circus Circus Reno, Eldorado Hotel Casino Reno and Silver Legacy Resort Casino Reno.