Day 1 Results: Men | Women

In 2019, the Team USA program included two young players who got a double dose of red, white and blue by making both the adult team and Junior Team USA.

Sean Wilcox of Altamonte Springs, Florida, and Solomon Salama of Beverly Hills, California, age 20 and 16, respectively, entered the USBC Team USA Trials focused on making Junior Team USA for the first time, but their outstanding performances earned them more than they ever could’ve hoped.

Their combined ages still left them a decade short of longtime team member John Janawicz, who became the tournament’s oldest winner at 46, but that only meant a well-balanced Team USA roster and an opportunity for the players to learn from each other.

“I just wanted to learn as much as possible,” Wilcox said. “The other guys have a ton of knowledge. They know so much about equipment and lane play and how patterns break down, and every bit of information can help. Everyone ended up being super nice. They accepted me right away and helped me so much along the way. The relationships continue to grow, even off the lanes. Team USA is about so much more than just bowling.”

Wilcox and Salama each brought a lot of experience and success, but they also were humble and excited to represent the United States on the lanes. It didn’t take long for them to get the opportunity.

Salama, a two-time 15-and-under winner at the Junior Gold Championships and a two-time member of Team USA’s U15 Developmental Team, was the first to get his passport stamped.

The two-hander was part of the four-player contingent that represented Junior Team USA at the inaugural World Bowling Junior Championships in France.

Experience earned while representing the United States at the 2018 Lee Evans Tournament of the Americas also helped Salama as he and fellow left-hander Anthony Neuer of Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, claimed the silver medal in boys doubles.

“Paris was a good experience,” Salama said. “It was my first time traveling outside of the United States, which was something I always wanted to do and got to experience because of Team USA. Bowling-wise, it was eye-opening about how you have to play the lanes and work with your teammates, not only to succeed, but to have a cohesive unit in a unique environment.”

Wilcox’s debut came with the adult team at the 2019 Pan Am Bowling Men’s Championships, where he hoped to continue to learn from his more experienced teammates and never could’ve expected the record-setting performance he’d be a part of.

The rookie right-hander teamed with five-time Team USA member AJ Johnson for the doubles gold medal with a record score, and the two helped their squad to the coveted team gold medal, also with a record total.

“I completely did not expect to go out and perform like I did in Peru, so to be able to be in the record book during my first year on Team USA, especially as the youngest player on the team, was amazing,” Wilcox said. “It was an awesome experience, and I absolutely loved it. Hopefully, I did a good job upholding what Team USA is all about and made everyone proud.”

Wilcox got a second opportunity at the podium during the summer as one of four Junior Team USA boys selected for the 2019 Pan Am Bowling Youth Championships in the Dominican Republic.

Since he was one of the older members of Junior Team USA in 2019, his role changed from learner to leader, an opportunity he didn’t take lightly. Ultimately, he hopes to have as big an impact on the younger bowlers he encounters as those who have guided and influenced him.

Salama and Wilcox both are on the lanes again this week at the Gold Coast Bowling Center for the 2020 Team USA Trials, where they’re motivated to retain their spots in the program. Salama again is eligible for both teams, while Wilcox, now 21, will focus on a second appearance on the adult team.

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“The biggest goal this week is just to bowl well on every pattern, with the immediate hope of being back on Junior Team USA,” Salama said. “The opportunity to get on Team USA again would be fantastic, too, because it would give me so much more experience, help from the coaches at the (International Training and Research Center) and a chance to develop my game to help me get to the next level.”

Wilcox is extra confident after a strong and memorable 2019 but also doesn’t want to lose any of the focus that helped him succeed at the Team Trials.

“It’s crazy coming here because I feel like a celebrity,” Wilcox said. “People know who I am, they’re saying hello to me and some even want to take pictures. It’s very cool, and something I’m appreciative of, but I am not going to take it for granted. It actually makes me want to work harder this year because I know people are watching me, and expectations are higher.”

After the first day of competition, contested on the 39-foot Beijing oil pattern, Salama finished 35th with a 1,198 total, and Wilcox was tied for 72nd place with 1,132.

In 2019, they finished fourth and eighth, respectively, in the points-based standings. The place competitors finish each day equals how many rankings points they earn for that day. At the end of the week, the player with the lowest total is the Team USA Trials champion.

Beyond the Team USA program, Salama and Wilcox both also are very focused on their educations, so if bowling doesn’t end up being a career path, they’ll be sure to find success off the lanes.

Wilcox is about a year and a half from earning his bachelor’s degree in international sales and marketing, but he’ll balance that with a rookie campaign on the Professional Bowlers Association Tour.

He’s hoping that the same teammates who helped acclimate him to Team USA also will be willing to help him settle in to life on the PBA Tour.

Salama, who is home-schooled, is closing in on the completion of high school and already taking some college-level classes.

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