|Pins Over Avg qualifier becomes Champ, Chad Wrzeninski|
History was made at White Oak Lanes in the Pop Whitten Pro Tour on August 23, 2010 as Baltimore, Maryland's Chad Wrzeninski became the first bowler to win a pro tour stop as a 'Pins Over Average' qualifier. In a thrilling finale, Wrzeninski nipped multi-tour champion, Mark Callahan by the slimmest of margins on the last ball of the tournament.
Others have come close to having their moment in the sun under the Pins Over Average qualifying stipulation, but Wrzeninski is the first to grab the brass ring, and he did it by climbing the stepladder from the 4th seed spot.
Wrzeninski's 4-1 record in the divisional round was nothing less than sensational, as he disposed of a veritable "Who's Who" in DPBA and PWPT tour opponents, including Don Dove, Walt Brooks, George Wynkoop, Gary McKinsey, and Larry Lipka.
The ladder finals included a bruising battle right from the start, as Severn, Maryland's best bowler, Chuck Paris, faced off against Baltimore's Richie Schmidt, who looked to be the dominant force for the weekend, posting a mammoth 1016 score for the 6-game preliminary block, and lapping the field on Sunday with an 829 pinfall total for his 5-game head-to-head stint, although Schmidt couldn't shake his opponents too easily, as his won-lost record was only 3-2. As the opening contest got underway, Schmidt was again on his game, but Paris was up for the challenge, as Chuck ousted Richie, 166-155.
Then Paris faced John Deantoniis in the next match. In another match of pure offense, Paris needed a mark in the 10th frame to defeat the hungry Deantoniis. Chuck again was determined, and delivered a strong pitch in which he left a lone single pin. Paris nailed it, and then threw his best ball of the contest to strike for the all-important count to walk away with a 163-160 win.
Chuck then went up against Chad Wrzeninski. The pace of the contest had let up a bit for Paris, but was still nip and tuck between the two players. Chad hung tough and seized each opportunity that arose, and by game's end, Paris found himself trailing, but in striking distance, as he needed a double-header to secure his third victory. Chuck clobbered the pocket, and successfully struck on his first ball in the 10th, but couldn't haul in the necessary double, and Wrzeninski won a hard-fought battle, 135-132.
Chad now took the reins and faced the ever menacing Billy Fritts. Wrzeninski stayed even with Fritts in the early going, and soon took advantage of an opening like a veteran. Chad built a mid-game lead that he never relinquished and pulled away at the end for a 144-114 triumph.
The next opponent for Wrzeninski was a dangerous one, in the form of Joe Ruthvin from Mt. Airy, Maryland. Ruthvin is a fast up-and-coming star on the duckpin scene, and would prove to be a different test for Chad. Joe started fast with an early advantage. But, Wrzeninski welcomed the challenge, and in an early pivotal moment, Chad slid the 2-4-6 split for a spare, which led to a strong 4-frame block from frames 2-5. Wrzeninski held an 18-pin advantage at the midway point, but Ruthvin roared back, cutting the lead to a slim 2 pin deficit in the 8th. Wrzeninski once again rose to the occasion, however, with '20-boxes' in the 9th and 10th to break open a close game, 154-130.
With one more hurdle to climb, Wrzeninski faced seasoned veteran, Mark Callahan. Callahan seemed destined to be the ultimate champion, based on his dramatic finish in the divisional round. Tied with Olney, MD's John Davis Sr. with 4-0 records, Mark slid the 3-6-7 split in the bottom of the 10th frame to steal the division title away from Davis.
The title match ensued, and Chad got the early jump with a 9-pin lead after 2 frames, but Callahan answered with 4 straight marks to hold a 12-pin lead after 5 frames. The match seesawed, with Wrzeninski regaining a 1-pin edge after 7 frames, and then Mark back in front 122-120 after 8. Callahan marked in the 9th while Wrzeninski opened, and it looked like Mark was in the driver's seat. But Callahan counted only 6 on his 9th frame spare after leaving the 2-4-6-9 split, and ended the frame with a 9. As the smoke cleared, Callahan had a game of 147. Wrzeninski had a score of 129 after 9, and thus needed a mark and a 9-count to win the title. Chad then proceeded in his half of the 10th, chopping the 2-8. He then realigned himself, bared down, and rolled a strong ball to successfully convert the flock shot for a spare. With the pressure on, Chad needed a 9-count to win the tournament. Wrzeninski took his time, and methodically delivered his final pitch, hitting solid in the 1-3 pocket. Chad momentarily left the 5-7 split, but a messenger pin came over to topple the 7 pin, and thus Chad Wrzeninski realized his dream in a pressure-filled 148-147 victory.
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