Wyoming pool team defies the odds

Brown’s Wyoming Tavern 9-ball team members are, from left, Aaron Frank, Michael Vicidomini, Adam Frank, Barry Hollembaugh, Matthew Tracey and Kevin Fiddes. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

WYOMING — There was something almost magical in the way a men’s open 9-ball pool team came together at Brown’s Wyoming Tavern earlier this year.

Just two weeks before the start of the spring pool session, co-captains Adam Frank and Richard Grund were finally able to round up enough players to field a team to play in a local American Poolplayers Association League.

Surprisingly, that team of eight men found instant chemistry and rode it all the way to the APA World Pool Championships in Las Vegas earlier this month.

Spurred by a huge comeback led by Aaron Frank and Kevin Fiddes in one match, and then having Matthew Tracey play the “match of his life” in another, the team rallied to finish tied for ninth place in the nation — the best showing for a men’s open 9-ball team from Delaware.

“We have a heck of a team,” said Michael Vicidomini. “We’re all friends so it works out even better. We see some teams where some people don’t get along with each other — they just throw a team together — but we worked out perfect.

“We have brothers on the team and we’ve got some close friends. It turned out to be the perfect mix.”

While the team of players from Kent County couldn’t quite keep pace with 5th Street Players of Dupo, Illinois, which defeated The Contenders II of West Covina, California, in the championship finals, it still turned out to be one memorable journey.

“Hands down, before we even started the session, I told all these guys that we had an awesome team and I knew we were going to make it far,” said Barry Hollenbaugh. “Everybody’s a solid shooter and everybody likes to come out and practice. I knew it was going to be a very, very special team.

“We just kept winning. If somebody was off, somebody else came back up. Nobody ever gave up.”

However, Mr. Hollenbaugh did have one concern heading out west to the world championships.

“I was a little bit afraid that since we had such a young team that some guys would get to Las Vegas and go drinking and not focus,” he said, “But we all went out there with one goal — and that was try to be national champions.”

The team played seven matches in the bracket-style tournament and rose to near the top of a record 492 teams that were entered.

“It was insane,” Adam Frank said. “Staying focused is not as hard as you think. We’d get a couple of hours sleep and

Co-Captain Adam Frank breaks a 9-ball rack at Brown’s Wyoming Tavern. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

then you’d shoot a match at 8 in the morning, then you’d shoot a match at 2, then you’d shoot a match at 5 or 7.

“You’d get back to the room, get something to eat, sleep for three hours and then come right back for some more pool.”

One of the highlights of the tournament was when Mr. Tracey, who is graded as a 3 player, came out and upset a 9 player — the higher the number, the better the player — to help the team rise all the way up to 17th place.

“Matt’s normally like our sacrificial lamb,” Adam Frank said. “We threw Matt up (against a 9) and Aaron (Frank) gave him the pep talk of the century telling him, ‘Look, when that dude’s in the chair, he’s nothing.’ If you can stay on the table you’ll be OK.

“He made that 9 so mad because he ran eight balls in a row on the first rack and he ended up actually beating him 16-4. They were so mad that they couldn’t see straight.”

Mr. Tracey wasn’t so confident following his first experience against a 9 in Las Vegas.

“The first 9 I played whipped my butt like 20-0,” he said. “Aaron (Frank) gave me the pep talk of the year when I played the second 9 and it sank in and I ran with it.

“I love shooting with these guys, I don’t think I’d go anywhere else. We’re all friends, we get along real well. The whole experience was great. This was the first time I’ve ever been to Las Vegas.”

The road came to an end for the team from Brown’s Tavern when it was playing for fifth place against a team from Canada and lost in the very last match.

It was still a very satisfying – and unexpected – journey for the team from Delaware, a team that was virtually thrown together at the last moment.

“One day (Adam Frank) texted me and I was mowing the grass and he said, they needed a 9-ball player and I said I’d never played, but let’s try it,” Mr. Vicidomini said. “I stuck to it and we went to freaking Las Vegas.

“It turns out that I like 9-ball a lot better than 8-ball. The points system is just different. In 8-ball you play by game and in 9-ball you play by points. I think I play better in 9-ball.”

Now, with all that experience under their belts, the team from Brown’s Tavern plans on making another run at a world championship.

“We’re already in tri-annuals so we’re going to go again,” said Mr. Vicidomini. “We’re not going to stop.”

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