A strike brought them together 10 years ago. Today, it's what keeps them together.
Nick Heilman, 34, and Andy Mills, 28, aren't technically brothers, but they spend up to five days a week together traveling to tournaments around the Midwest and the country. They've won numerous individual titles, and a national team championship.
They met at a PBA regional tournament at Pla-Mor Lanes, the same alley they still bowl on leagues nights or for the occasional practice game. Heilman came from a rich history of bowling, and was already an accomplished bowler, while Mills was making waves as a high school senior, out-bowling the pros.
"That was kind of the first eye-opening experience. Andy's here, he's not just for junior leagues. He's going to be good for a long time," Heilman recalled.
Mills eventually joined Heilman's team called the 'Nicholas J's' in 2009. They went on to win a national team championship in 2012 at the United States Bowling Congress Open Championships in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
"Everything was kind of cemented from there," Heilman said.
Both have excelled as individuals, winning tournament titles and sharing the La Crosse city bowling series record at 858. Heilman has surpassed 800 59 times, and has 48 300 games. Mills has 23 800s and 51 300s.
Once November hits, the two can be found side by side nearly every weekend at tournaments, and twice a week at league. They figure they've bowled between 150-200 tournament together.
"Every tournament that we go to, I have to drive him," Heilman said. "Five minutes out of town, he's asleep no matter what, no matter if we're just going to West Salem, or Winnipeg, Canada. He's asleep. So we spend a lot of time together, not always awake."
"But as long as I set the DVD player for Nick, we're good to go," Mills added.
A few years ago, they decided to start splitting their earnings to keep their passion financially-stable, and to push each other.
"It made both of us want to practice that much more and become that much better," Heilman said. "As much as a lot of them are individual singles tournaments, you're kind of doing it all as a doubles team, where you don't want to let the other person down."
Heilman excels with the technical aspects of the game. When he's not scoring, he knows where to move around the lanes to pick up the extra pins.
Mills excels with the physical mechanics of the game, and is able to repeat shot after shot. Surprisingly, they don't rely on each other as much as you'd think.
"The advice is definitely a 1-way street," Mills said. "In the 10 years we've been together, I cannot remember one time of telling Nick where to play and what ball to throw. That's what makes us who we are."
Neither plans to slow down any time soon, and feel they are only entering their prime as bowlers.
"It's kind of crazy to think that, because we're doing good at what we're doing," Mills said. "That's kind of the exciting part too. The timeline isn't even close to being over."