2016 USBC Open concludes at National Bowling Stadium in Reno

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*NOTE: All standings are unofficial and pending final verification.

RENO, Nev. - After a few close calls, everything finally fell into place for Dan Higgins of Westerville, Ohio, and his teammates, and they headline the list of champions at the 2016 United States Bowling Congress Open Championships, which finished its 129-day run Monday at the National Bowling Stadium.

Higgins helped Higgy's Aquarium to the Team All-Events title with a 10,041 total, marking only the 59th time in 113 years of tournament history the 10,000-pinfall mark has been surpassed. It was the third such time in four years for a Higgins-captained team, and they claimed the victory by more than 300 pins.

The list of Regular Division winners includes BowersBowlingTour.com of Wichita, Kansas (team), Christopher Hill of Franklin, Wisconsin, and Greg Thomas of Irmo, South Carolina (doubles), Robert J. Bures of Painesville, Ohio (singles), and Brandon Novak of Chillicothe, Ohio (all-events).

Chad Roberts led the way for Higgy's Aquarium with a 2,122 all-events total June 17, which is tied for fourth place in Regular All-Events this year, and he was joined by Joshua Conner (2,074), Joe Bailey (1,995), Higgins (1,928) and Tony Carson (1,922).

"My teammates have been blowing up my phone all day waiting for the tournament to be done, and we're so relieved and excited right now," said Higgins, who made his 20th USBC Open Championships appearance and also helped Higgy's Aquarium to a runner-up effort in Regular Team. "It's unbelievable. To get the official word and eventually get to see the guys get the eagles and awards will be priceless."

BowersBowlingTour.com2016OCForWeb465x262BowersBowlingTour.com escaped a few challengers on the way to earning the Regular Team title with a 3,377 total, posted live on BowlTV on June 10.

The team gained momentum in a 1,004 and 1,178 start, before closing with the highest team game of this year's event, 1,195, to catapult into the top spot.

After grinding through the opening game on the 38-foot team oil pattern, leadoff bowler Zach Rhoades made a pivotal move left to be more in his comfort zone, which yielded 19 strikes and games of 278 and 265 for a 725 series.

Kristopher Prather, the Regular Singles runner-up in his NBS debut in 2011, led the way for BowersBowlingTour.com this year with a 732 series and was followed by Rhoades, Mitch Hupe (674), Brent Bowers (630) and Justin Zwaschka (616).

"For me, as cliche‚ as it sounds, this really is a dream come true," said Bowers, a 28-year-old right-hander and the veteran of the group with seven tournament appearances. "For a couple of the guys, it still hasn't sunk in, but the realization of what we accomplished is a process. It may even take until we get to hold onto those eagles to make it believable, but we couldn't be happier or more proud."

For Novak, being in the right place at the right time paid dividends. He watched Higgy's Aquarium surge into the lead, and after getting helpful equipment and lane play tips from the new leaders, he capped his 10th tournament appearance with the first two 700 series of his Open Championships career on the way to a 2,133 all-events total.NovakBrandon2016OCForWeb465x262

The 27-year-old right-hander needed two strikes in his final frame to secure the top spot, and he delivered three flush strikes to cap off a 260 game and 742 singles series. He preceded the memorable finale with sets of 703 in doubles and 688 in team.

Since his tournament debut at the National Bowling Stadium in 2007, Novak had rolled just one set below 575 but hadn't been able to get past the 700 mark until his June 17 breakout performance.

"I have been bowling in this tournament for 10 years and was hoping for the moment I could bowl well enough on the big stage," Novak said. "I knew what I needed that day, and I couldn't shake the nerves for anything. I took deep breaths and told myself to make the best shots I could. The result was two of the biggest shots of my career, for sure."

The longest wait of the 2016 Open Championships belonged to Bures, who competed with his Wickliffe Lanes teammates March 14 and 15. The group left Reno on top of the standings in every event, but Bures' 815 singles series was the only score to endure the wait of nearly four months.

BuresRobertJ2016OCForWeb465x262The 28-year-old right-hander rolled games of 279, 278 and 258 just 10 days into the event, which kicked off March 5. It ended up being one of two 800s at the NBS this year, with the other belonging to Regular Singles runner-up Matt Gilman of Pembroke Pines, Florida (814).

Bures' father, Robert A. Bures, is a 1980 Regular Doubles champion at the Open Championships, so having a chance to continue the tradition is special for the Bures family.

"I've been waiting for a long time, and now I'm relieved and excited at the same time," said Bures, who also finished tied for fourth in Regular All-Events (2,122), seventh in Team All-Events (9,598) and 10th in Regular Team (3,202). "To win at the Open Championships is amazing, and to be in an even smaller club with my father is very special. I know he feels the same way. It also was great for me to have him there to be a part of it."

The 2016 Regular Doubles title was earned May 21 with a clutch final-game performance from Hill and Thomas, who capped their 1,401 winning total with a 562 game. The finale included a 296 game from Hill and 266 from Thomas. ThomasGregHillChris2016OCForWeb465x262

Thomas led the duo with a 720 series at the NBS, while Hill contributed 681.

"I'm very happy, especially for my teammate, friends and family," said Thomas, a 48-year-old right-hander who made his 35th tournament appearance. "This is something I've always wanted to win."

In the Classified Division, David Hjelm of Wheaton, Minnesota, and Gary Sundby Jr. of Dalton, Minnesota, went the distance with the lowest winning score since the introduction of Classified Doubles in 1999.

The two claimed the crown with a 1,155 total posted March 24. Hjelm, who also cracked the top 10 in Classified All-Events, led the pair with a 586 series, while Sundby added a 569 set.

Hjelm, a 42-year-old right-hander, made his Open Championships debut this year. Sundby competed for the ninth time.

Classified Team was decided May 31 as U of O Alumni of Tualatin, Oregon, rolled games of 923, 911 and 876 for a 2,710 total.

Darrin Allen set the pace for U of O Alumni with a 579 series and was followed by his father, Don Allen (558), John Lorenz (551), Todd Vrooman (516) and Vrooman's father, Dean Vrooman (506).

Chet Wigal III of Groveport, Ohio, a 29-year-old right-hander, rolled games of 243, 186 and 232 on June 9 to put himself in position to win Classified Singles with a 661 total, while Trudy Koberlein, a 66-year-old right-hander from Georgetown, Texas, filled 80 of her 90 frames on the way to sets of 605 in singles, 581 in team and 568 in doubles to lead Classified All-Events with a 1,754 total.

The 2016 Open Championships marked the event's record 13th trip to The Biggest Little City in the World and 10th visit to the National Bowling Stadium. This year's event featured 8,063 teams competing for a prize fund of nearly $4 million.

The tournament featured seven perfect games, four 299s and two 298s, while an additional 15 bowlers tossed 11 consecutive strikes.

Also during the 2016 event, a record 19 bowlers celebrated 50 years of participation, two bowlers reached 60 years of competition, one bowler was honored for hitting the 65-year mark and two competitors added their names to the short list of bowlers who have knocked down 100,000 pins on the championship lanes.

Among the highlights at the NBS in 2016 was Sylvester Thiel of Lake City, Minnesota, making his record-tying 71st tournament appearance, matching the mark set by USBC Hall of Famers Bill Doehrman and Joe Norris. Thiel left Reno with his sights set on tournament No. 72 next year in Las Vegas but died in his home May 31.

The 2017 Open Championships will make its debut at the South Point Bowling Plaza in Las Vegas, which played host to the USBC Women's Championships and USBC Mixed in 2016.

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