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Published: Thursday, 8/14/2003

2 billard teams chalk cues for nationals

BY MARK MONROE
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

The 21 West Lounge pool hall will be very well represented at one of billiard's most prestigious events next week.

Two teams from the Sylvania pool hall have qualified for the American Poolplayers Association national tournament that begins tomorrow in Las Vegas. The two eight-man teams will compete in the APA National Team Championship open eight ball tournament at the Riviera Hotel and Casino.

Both teams will be led by Jeremy Mitchell, the director of pool at 21 West Lounge.

Mitchell will compete with both the 21 West Monday Travel team and the 21 West Tuesday Travel team.

It is the first time a player from northwest Ohio will compete in the national tournament on two teams in the same year, according to Mitchell. He said the APA had a rule barring a player from competing on more than one team, but that it was changed five years ago.

“It's a pretty big deal,” Mitchell said. “All the people in the pool community are very aware of it.”

The two billiards teams compete in a 36-week season. It is divided into two 18-week sessions. The top four teams at the end of each half qualify for the season-ending league tournament that qualifies one team for the national event.

The 21 West Tuesday team won the post season title in Findlay in June and the Monday team won the title in a Toledo tournament last month.

While Mitchell played a pivotal role in his Tuesday team's victory, he was relegated to a coaching role in the Monday team's win.

Mitchell won all three of his Tuesday team's matches by breaking 2-2 ties.

“All three involved me having to win the final game,” he said.

Mitchell led his Tuesday team to three straight victories despite the pressure filled situations.

“I don't feel it so much anymore as much as the younger players do,” he said. “I've been in that position so many times now. But when you play all year for it to come down to that shot...you feel the pressure.”

Mitchell never had to pick up a cue to help his Monday team.

“I never had to hit a ball,” he said. “We just happened to win a lot of matches without having to go to me. I'm always saved for the last match. You want the pressure on your best player.”

The Monday team defeated another team from 21 West 3-1 in the first round. The next day it knocked off perhaps the toughest team in the tournament. The 21 West Monday shut out the Sports Zone team 3-0. Miller said the Sports Zone squad was “the best team on paper.”

The Monday team had its closest battle of the tournament when they faced the 21 West Thursday Travel team. Mitchell did not participate in the match because he also plays for the Thursday Travel team.

The game was tied at two matches apiece and it came down to the Thursday team's best player against the Monday team's captain. Miller, who was recovering from knee surgery, fought through the pain and won the match 3 games to 2 to send his team to the finals.

“I won with a little help from God and a pharmaceutical company,” Miller quipped.

The 21 West Monday team then downed Z's Place 3-0 in the finals.

Despite not picking up a stick, Mitchell said his presence still affected the outcome of the matches.

“Just with me being out there, the other team has to account for me,” he said. “It definitely played a factor,” Mitchell said. “Especially in the last match.”

Mitchell said the victories both meant a lot to him.

“I got the same satisfaction from both. I still helped coach the players [on the Monday team],” he said.

Mitchell said many people are surprised that coaching plays such a crucial role in competitive pool.

The team captain must determine which of his players matches up the best with the other team's players.

In APA competition a handicap system is used. Players are given a point ranking. The lowest ranking is a two and is only used for women.

The lowest ranking for males is a three.

The highest ranking is a seven.

The rankings indicate the number of games a player must win to take a match.

For example, if a No. 3 ranked player plays a No. 4, the higher ranked player must win four games before their opponent wins three.

To avoid mismatches, each team is allowed to use five players who can combine for no more than 23 total points

“It is very crucial,” Mitchell said of the captain's responsibility to come up with the right match ups. “It rarely comes down to the best team.”

In the Findlay tournament, Mitchell, who has a ranking of six, had to take on three players with No. 3 rankings.

“It's much easier to play someone equal to your skill level. With the lower players you don't know what's coming,” he said.

“With the higher level players you know what to expect.”

Mitchell, who has been playing competitive pool for just eight years, said he “picked it up pretty quickly.”

He said in his first year playing in the APA his team missed reaching the national tournament by literally one shot.

Mitchell said he has made it to the national tournament on four occasions.

His team's best finish was 16th out of 580 teams in 1996.

This year the 21 West teams will compete against 630 teams.

here are over 200 pool tables at the casino.

The players earned an all-expensed paid trip to Las Vegas. The APA covers airfare and seven nights of lodging.

Each player pays a $20 annual membership fee to belong to the APA.

Another Toledo team from the Sports Zone, which is located on Monroe Street, also qualified for the national tournament.

The winning team will take home $25,000. Any team that places higher than 130th is guaranteed to win money.

The APA has more than 215,000 members and there are more than 8,000 official sanctioned APA venues throughout the country.

No team from Toledo has ever won the open team division since it began in 1982.

Mitchell estimated that there are 850 to 1,000 APA members in the Toledo area.

“Very few people get to go,” Mitchell said.

“There's a lot of prestige involved. Plus, it's a good time [in Las Vegas]. This is the reason you play.”



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