Joseph Diaz revved up at the right time Sunday.

The 22-year-old Chicagoan won the men’s finals of the 56th Beat the Champions Sunday at Arena Lanes in Oak Lawn with a 1,051. Michael Thomas Jr. was second with 980.

“The first game was touchy, because we were by the door,’’ said Diaz, a customer services associate at Walgreens. “Once we switched lanes, I was able to be a lot more consistent.’’

That showed as he rolled games of 218, 279, 246 and 218 to go with 90 pins of handicap.

In the finals, bowlers bowl four games and jump a pair of lanes after each game. They were bowling on lanes 25-40.

“I was staying consistent on revs,’’ Diaz said. “I was conscious of my speed.’’

What he wasn’t conscious of is where he stood during the event.

“I don’t like score-watching,’’ he said. “My own biggest enemy sometimes is myself.’’

Diaz advanced from the Latin American Mixed at AMF Forest Lanes, which is a 100-percent league, so the league’s prize fund will receive a $500 bonus. Thirty of the 32 finalists came from a league with 100-percent entry in BTC.

This year the top prize in the finals for both the women’s and men’s champions is $7,500. Asked what he will do with his prize, Diaz said “Give some to my mom, save some or use it as a down payment on a car.’’

Thomas adjusted to finish strong with games of 242, 230, 229 and 279 to be the highest scratch bowler. In BTC, bowlers who average below 210 receive 90 percent of the difference as handicap.

“In practice, I used a lot more polish,’’ said Thomas, a Comcast Tech from Evantson. “Dad told me to switch to something with a little more surface.’’

Chinh Duong, of Skokie, also had consistent scratch games–238, 247, 267, 226– to finish third (978). Parris Faulkner, who had the front eight in the final game before fouling, was fourth (965).

BTC is a handicapped charity tournament put on by the Chicagoland Bowling Proprietors Association with the Sun-Times as the media sponsor. It has raised more than $2.8 million for charity, so far.

NOTES

BALL RETURN: Louis Gorcos made his sixth finals stick with a fifth (960). Also making return finals appearances were Chris Schuch, eighth (938) and Keith Plocharczyk, 24th (852).

SCATCH: Eleven bowlers were scratch: Thomas (second), Duong (third), Gorcos (fifth), Brandon Donnelly (sixth), Schuch (eighth), Ross Carmody (13th), Daniel Strubel (17th), Byron Johnson (21st), Kevin Comiskey (25th), Paul McElvaine (26th) and Dean Caprini (32nd).

PENS: Sean Rash sent a 708 target in December in the television show. There were 1,184 league men during contest week in early December who topped that score and will receive “I Beat the Champ’’ commemorative pen.

Top five (l-r, 1-5)–Diaz, Thomas, Duong, Faulkner, Gorcos–at the men’s finals of the 56th Beat the Champions at Arena Lanes in Oak Lawn.
Credit: Dale Bowman

SCORES & PRIZES

Men’s finals, Arena Lanes, Oak Lawn
Sunday’s results
Name, Establishment G1-G2-G3-G4-Hdcp–TOT
Joseph Diaz, AMF Forest 218-279-246-218-90–1,051
Michael Thomas Jr., Classic 242-230-229-279-0–980
Chinh Duong, Classic 238-247-267-226-0–978
Parris Faulkner, Townhall 248-212-185-270-50–965
Louis Gorcos, Oak Forest 247-255-268-190-0–960
Brandon Donnelly, Fox 247-241-256-201-0–945
Nathan Wiltgen, Oak Forest 198-234-239-195-75–941
Chris Schuch, Tinley 226-245-210-257-0–938
Jerry Harris, Habetler 197-246-235-154-97–929
Julian Galarza, BZ-River Grove 165-207-255-220-79–926
Kevin Payne, Burr Oak 242-276-151-227-28–924
Steven Brown, Skyway 223-208-201-169-122–923
Jeromy Wicklund, Stardust 224-225-214-202-50–915
Ross Carmody, Centennial 235-226-236-205-0–902
Carlos Lewis, Fox 200-244-156-184-118–902
Henry Burns, Townhall 213-159-192-214-108–886
Daniel Strubel, Fox 182-216-230-257-0–885
Pat Murphy, Lisle 185-224-203-210-50–872
Robert Masuca, Lakeside 196-175-193-192-115–871
Anthony Muscari, Waveland 170-193-190-234-79–866
Byron Johnson, Burr Oak 226-197-225-213-0–861
Stephen Tate, Arena 216-193-180-202-68–859
Darron Brown, Dolton 235-190-194-193-43–855
Keith Plocharczyk, Arena 199-206-209-181-57–852
Kevin Comiskey, Arena 202-208-239-194-0–843
Paul McElvaine, Castaways 193-191-195-257-0–836
Carnold Joyce, Tinley 159-155-191-237-75–817
Marcus Marin, Arena 213-160-164-216-50–803
Harold Bailey, Classic 180-186-177-160-97–802
Dennis McBride, Timber 136-193-178-140-147–794
Kilija Benson, Skyway 186-162-202-189-32–771
Dean Caprini, BZ-Woodridge 208-159-192-769-0–769

PRIZES
1st: $7,500 2nd: 50-inch LED 1080p smart HDTV; 3rd: 40-inch LED 1080p HDTV; 4th: 32-inch LED 720p smart HDTV; 5th: 24-inch LED 720p smart HDTV; 6th-13th: Hammer Rebel and Hammer two-ball tote bag; 14th-21st: Hammer Rebel ball; 22nd-32nd: KR StrikeForce two-ball roller ball

WOMEN’S FINALS
Sunday, March 12: Women’s finals, Bluebird Lanes, Chicago, noon