The Ohio State men’s fencing team and Princeton women’s squad hold the top spots in the first edition of the CollegeFencing360 Fencing Coaches Poll, released today (Jan. 22) in advance of the annual late-January big weekend of competition. The weekend slate includes several events that historically both validate and shake up the rankings, with dual-meet tournaments to be contested at St. John’s (Jan. 26), Temple (Jan. 26), NYU (Jan. 27) and Brown (Jan. 26; NFC #2). Ten of the 12 teams ranked among the top-10 of either poll (all but Princeton and Stanford) will be in action at St. John’s, NYU or Temple (due to the university’s unique academic calendar, Princeton is unable to compete during January).
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The Ohio State men’s squad – which helped OSU claim the 2012 NCAA Combined Fencing Championship – narrowly edged perennial title contender Penn State atop the first CF360 coaches poll, with 123 total voting points to PSU’s 121. The nine-member voting panel for the men’s rankings submit a top-15 ranking, with the No. 1 teams on each ballot receiving 15 points, etc. (max. 135). The Notre Dame men are ranked third (116), followed by Princeton (108), St. John’s (105), Harvard (96), Columbia (83), Pennsylvania (75), Duke (60) and Stanford (49) to round out the top-10.
The Ohio State men received five of the nine first-place votes, while Penn State was listed first on three ballots and St. John’s on one.
The Princeton women were a clear No. 1 in the initial CF360 coaches poll, garnering 147 of the maximum 150 points (with eight first-place votes). The Notre Dame women check in at second (121; two first-place), followed by Columbia (121), Ohio State (120), Penn State (111), St. John’s (105), Northwestern (88), Harvard (85), Temple (67) and Pennsylvania (60).
(Note that the CF360 men’s ranking include only nine voters, as Temple coach Nikki Franke submits rankings for only the women’s poll).
Princeton (255) narrowly edged Notre Dame (253) for the most combined votes from the two rankings, followed by Ohio State (243) and Penn State (232). Notre Dame (men 3rd, women 2nd) is the only school with both of its fencing teams listed among the top-3 of the respective CF360 rankings, while Princeton, Ohio State and Penn State all have both of their squads somewhere among the top-4.
The CF360 voting panel currently consists of 10 coaches spread across college fencing’s four regions, weighted in relation to the number of competing schools from each region. Accordingly, there now are four coaches from the large Northeast Region, three from the Mid-Atlantic/South, two from the Midwest and one from the four-school West Region.
The 2013 college fencing season will feature the return of several 2012 Olympic competitors who did not participate with their collegiate teams during the 2012 spring season. That group includes nine members of the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team: Notre Dame men’s foilist Gerek Meinhardt, women’s epeeist Courtney Hurley and women’s foil newcomer Lee Kiefer (plus men’s foilist Ariel DeSmet, who took off a year for his own Olympic bid) … Columbia women’s foilists Nicole Ross and Nzingha Prescod … Penn State foilists Miles Chamley-Watson (U.S. team member) and David Willette (U.S. candidate) … St. John’s men’s sabre standout Daryl Homer, Princeton women’s epeeist Susannah Scanlan and Stanford men’s foil newcomer Alex Massialas (club teammate of ND’s Meinhardt in their native San Francisco).
Five of the fencers listed above already have won NCAA individual titles: Meinhardt (2010; ’09 runner-up), Hurley (2011), DeSmet (2012), Ross (2010) and Homer (2010 & ’11; ’09 runner-up). Willette was the 2010 NCAA runner-up. Hurley and Scanlan were members of the 2012 Olympic bronze-medal women’s epee team.
The OHIO STATE MEN return all six of the fencers who contributed to the 2012 NCAA title, most notably: junior foilist Zain Shaito (Garland, Texas), the 2012 NCAA champion, and fifth-year sabre standout Max Stearns (Winnipeg, Manitoba), a three-time NCAA entrant who advanced to the 2012 NCAA semifinals. The squad also features a pair of epeeists who reached the 2012 NCAA semifinals – senior Marco Canevari (Milano, Italy), a three-time NCAA qualifier who also was a semifinalist in 2011, and junior Kristian Boyadzhiev (Sofia, Bulgaria). OSU’s other returners from the 2012 NCAA contingent include junior sabre two-time All-American Rhys Douglas (Scottsdale, Ariz.) and sophomore foilist Chris Colley (Portland, Ore.).
The OHIO STATE WOMEN return four of the six 2012 NCAA competitors – led by the defending NCAA epee champion in senior Katarzyna Dabrowa (Wroclaw, Poland; also was 2011 semifinalist) and sophomore foilist Mona Shaito, the younger sister of Zain and a 2012 NCAA semifinalist. Senior sabre leader and Chicago native Allison Miller is a three-time NCAA entrant (11th in 2012 for All-America honors) while junior epeeist Carolina Piasecka (Oslo, Norway) has fenced in the NCAAs twice and placed ninth in 2012 for All-America status.
Ohio State would be a clear favorite to repeat if not for the departure of four-year sabre standout Margarita “Maggie” Tschomakova (7th at 2012 NCAAs) and graduated foilist Allison Henvick, a three-time NCAA qualifier and two-time All-American (also 15th in ’12).
The PRINCETON WOMEN once again feature an impressive lineup that often can go three, four (or more) fencers deep at each weapon. Top returners from the 2012 NCAA qualifiers include: senior sabre sensation and Chicago native Eliza Stone (three-time NCAA entrant; 2011 runner-up and ’12 semifinalist); sophomore epeeist and 2012 NCAA runner-up Kat Holmes (Washington, D.C.); and two-time foil All-American Eve Levin (New York City), the 2011 NCAA runner-up. Princeton’s ridiculous depth at women’s epee also includes: senior two-time All-American Hannah Safford (San Francisco; 7th at ’12 NCAAs), senior two-time NCAA entrant Phoebe Caldwell (Indian Springs, Ala.), a pair of talented freshmen in Isabel Ford (Portland, Ore.) and Anna Van Brummen (Houston) – and even veteran returner Susannah Scanlan (St. Paul, Minn.), a member of the U.S. squad that claimed bronze at the 2012 Olympics. Scanlan, an All-American following top NCAA finishes in 2009 (5th) and ’10 (7th), is set to rejoin the Princeton program when classes resume in early February.
Princeton’s lineup is equally deep at women’s foil, with Levin joined by three fellow All-Americans: sophomore Ambika Singh (Skillman, N.J.; 10th at ’12 NCAAs), senior Brianna Martin (Short Hills, NJ; 6th at ’10 NCAAs) and junior Hyun-Kyung Yuh (Scarsdale, N.Y.; 6th at ’11 NCAAs). The sabre squad also includes junior two-time NCAA entrant Diamond Wheeler (Portland, Ore.; All-America/10th at ’11 NCAAs) and senior Joanna Cichomski (Hoffman Estates, Ill.; ’10 NCAA entrant) – plus impressive newcomers Gracie Stone (Eliza’s younger sister) and Desirae Major (Olathe, Kan.).
The PRINCETON MEN graduated seven foilists from their 2012 squad, most notably four-year standout and 2012 NCAA semifinalist Alex Mills. Senior foilist Robert Malcolm (Park City, Utah) returns after a 22nd-place finish at the ’11 NCAAs (the departed Marcus Howard was 20th in the 2012 NCAA men’s foil competition). Newcomers Michael Dudey (Bellaire, Texas) and Dallas native Rodney Chen are expected to pick up the slack due to the graduation loss of Mills. The Tigers feature an elite senior duo at men’s epee – in Jonathan Yergler (Winter Park, Fla.), a three-time NCAA entrant who was the 2011 NCAA runner-up before winning in ’12, and Edward Kelley (San Antonio, Texas), who placed eighth at the 2012 NCAAs. Both 2012 NCAA sabre entrants return, led by junior All-American and 2012 NCAA semifinalist Philip Dershwitz (Sherborn, Mass.). Junior Robert Stone – brother to Eliza and Gracie – qualified for the 2012 NCAAs but finished 22nd.
The NOTRE DAME WOMEN are buoyed by the return of two elite epeeists who took a year off from college fencing during their 2012 Olympic bids – fifth-year senior Courtney Hurley (San Antonio) and fellow veteran Ewa Nelip (Katowice, Poland), who was granted a sixth year of eligibility after taking off the 2010 and 2012 college seasons due to training with the Olympic national-team program. Hurley – the 2011 NCAA champion, after reaching the semifinals in ’09 and ’10 – was a teammate of Princeton’s Scanlan on the U.S. bronze medal-winning team at the 2012 Olympics. Nelip also is a two-time NCAA semifinalist (’08, ’09) and added another All-America finish (9th) as a member of Notre Dame’s 2011 NCAA championship team.
Notre Dame’s lineup includes another 2012 women’s Olympian, as freshman foilist Lee Kiefer (Versailles, Ky.) impressively reached the quarterfinals of the the 2012 Olympic Games (her sister Alex won the 2011 NCAA women’s foil title, as a freshman at Harvard). In addition to Hurley and Nelip, five other returning ND women’s fencers have received All-America honors: senior sabre leader Lian Osier (Battle Ground, Wash.; 9th in ’11, 8th in ’12), sophomore epeeist Ashley Severson (Franklin Lakes, N.J.; 5th in ’12), senior foilist Grace Hartman (St. Paul, Minn.; 5th in ’12), sophomore foilist Madison Zeiss (Los Angeles; 8th in ’12) and sophomore epeeist Nicole Ameli (Las Vegas; 11th in ’12). Two others have NCAA tournament experience, as junior foilist Rachel Beck (Tucson, Ariz.) was a member of the 2011 NCAA title team (she placed 17th) and senior sabre fencer Abi Nichols placed 15th at the 2012 NCAAs.
The NOTRE DAME MEN have a similar infusion of returning Olympic-level talent, as foil standout Gerek Meinhardt (San Francisco) is returning from his second tour as a member of the U.S. Olympic team. Meinhardt was the NCAA runner-up as a freshman in 2009 before winning the NCAA title in 2010. An ND fencer also won the NCAA men’s foil title in 2011, with current junior Ariel DeSmet (Troutdale, Ore.) claiming that title (DeSmet did not fence collegiately in 2012 while pursuing a spot in the Olympic team). The team’s other top returner is three-time NCAA epee entrant James Kaull (Washington, D.C.), who posted All-America finishes at the NCAAs in 2010 (10th) and ’12 (7th). Junior Kevin Hassett (Beaverton, Ore.) was a 2012 sabre All-American (7th at NCAAs) while two others – senior sabre fencer Jason Choy (Basking Ridge, N.J.; 14th) and junior Michael Rossi (White Plains, N.Y.; 23rd) also fenced in the 2012 NCAAs.
The PENN STATE MEN, similar to Notre Dame, are welcoming back a pair of high-level foilist who did not fence collegiately in 2012 while pursuing their Olympic dreams. Fifth-year senior and Philadelphia native Miles Chamley-Watson joined ND’s Meinhardt on the 2012 U.S. Olympic team and has finished among the NCAA top-4 three times, including a loss to ND’s DeSmet in the 2011 title bout. PSU senior David Willette (Lafayette, Calif.) – who has one year of eligibility remaining after 2013 – came up short in his 2012 Olympic bid, after finishing second at the 2010 NCAAs and reaching the ’11 semifinals.
Penn State’s other proven men’s fencers include junior sabre All-American Adiran Bak (Franklin Lakes, N.J.; 7th at ’11 NCAAs, 6th in ’12) and senior foilist Daniel Gomez (Mexico City, Mexico), who placed 10th at the 2012 NCAAs before competing in the Olympics for his native country. Sophomore foilist David Gomez (Daniel’s brother) placed 18th at the 2012 NCAAs but PSU’s 2012 NCAA epee entrants (Oliver Valdes/16th and Anthony Green/19th) no longer are on the team. The Nittany Lions also must fill a big hole at men’s sabre, after the graduation of two-time NCAA champion Alecs Ochocki. Early indications point to sophomore epeeist Jeffrey Miller (Centennial, Colo.) and freshman Canadian sabre talent Shaul Gordon being among the top candidates to fill expanded rolls in 2013.
Here’s some more quick notes on top returning fencers:
• Penn State women – Senior epeeist Marg Guzzi (Milan, Italy) will be looking to cap a stellar career that includes winning the NCAA title in 2012, being runner-up in ’12 and a 2011 semifinalist … the squad’s only other returners from the 2012 NCAAs include junior sabre All-American Nicole Glon (State College, Pa.; 17th at ’11 NCAAs, 9th in ’12), daughter of longtime PSU assistant coach Wes Glon, and sophomore foilist Alina Antokhoma (Moscow, Russia), a 2012 NCAA semifinalist … the PSU women must replace graduated All-American Monica Aksamit (the 2012 NCAA sabre runner-up) and 2012 NCAA epee qualifier Oksana Samorodov (10th at ’12 NCAAs).
• St. John’s men – Sabre sensation and 2012 U.S. Olympic quarterfinalist Daryl Homer (Bronx, N.Y.) combined with PSU’s Ochocki to each win two NCAA sabre titles over the past four years … Homer (NCAA champ in ’10 & ’11) sat out the 2012 college season due to his Olympic training (he was the NCAA runner-up in ’09) … senior Sean Buckley (Seacaucus, N.J.) also returns to the sabre squad as a three-time All-American (8th at the 2010 & ’11 NCAAs, 10th in ’12) … the other Red Storm weapons will need to step up in 2013, most notably in epee following the departure of All-Americans Nicholas Vomero (5th at ’12 NCAAs) and two-time NCAA champion Mart Israilian … the squad does return both of its 2012 NCAA foil entrants, in juniors Eli Schenkel (Los Angeles; 9th at ’12 NCAA) and Max Blitzer (Staten Island, N.Y.; 14th).
• St. John’s women – Senior foilist Evgeniya Kirpicheva (Ufa, Russia) joins PSU epeeist Guzzi as three-time NCAA semifinalist, including winning the NCAA title in 2012 … her countrywoman Irina Koroleva (Khimki, Russia) likewise is a three-time foil All-American (5th in ’11; 9th in ’10 & ’12) while junior Anna Limbach (Cologne, Germany) should be in the running for the 2013 sabre title, after placing eighth at the 2011 NCAAs and third in ’12 … the Red Storm women also feature a pair of two-time NCAA qualifiers in junior epeeists Alina Ferdman (Ma’alot, Israel; 6th at ’12 NCAAs) and Zsofia Fath (Budapest, Hungary).
• Columbia women – This surging squad has received a huge boost with the return of two foilists from the 2012 U.S. Olympic team, in veteran Nicole Ross (an NYC native) and junior Nzingha Prescod (Brooklyn, N.Y.) … Ross, similar to ND’s Nelip, was granted a sixth year of eligibility after missing the past two college seasons due to national-team training (she was the 2010 NCAA champion, after reaching the ’08 semifinals and placing 5th in ’09) … senior epeeist and Chicago native Lydia Kopecky is a three-time NCAA qualifier (All-America in 2011/7th & ’12/8th) while the senior twin tandem of Loweye and Essane Diedro (Freeport, N.Y.) each have reached the NCAAs during their careers (Loweye was a 12-place All-American in 2011 while Essane placed 14th in ’12) … senior foilist D’Meca Homer (sister to St. John’s standout Daryl Homer) is a three-time NCAA qualifier but has yet to finish higher than 19th … sophomore epeeist Diana Tsinis (Little Neck, N.Y.) placed 17th at the 2012 NCAAs.
• In addition to various fencers mentioned above, other top returners (based on 2012 NCAA finish) include: Stanford junior men’s foilist Turner Caldwell (San Francisco; 2012 NCAA runner-up, 7th in ’11) … Columbia junior men’s epeeist Alen Hadzic (Montclair, N.J.; ’12 NCAA runner-up, 9th in ’11) … Penn sophomore women’s foilist Luona Wang (Vestavia Hills, Ala.; ’12 NCAA runner-up) … and Northwestern senior women’s epeeist Kate Cavanaugh (Milwaukee; ’12 NCAA semifinalist).
CollegeFencing360 Coaches Poll #1 (Jan. 22, 2013)
1. Ohio State – 123 voting points (5 first-place votes)
2. Penn State – 121 (3)
3. Notre Dame – 116
4. Princeton – 108
5. St. John’s – 105 (1)
6. Harvard – 96
7. Columbia – 83
8. Penn – 75
9. Duke –60
10. Stanford – 49
Also Receiving Votes – Sacred Heart 38, Brown 33, Yale 30, North Carolina 18, Air Force 11, MIT 6, UC San Diego 3, Boston College 2, Johns Hopkins 2 and Brandeis 1.
1. Princeton – 147 voting points (8 first-place votes)
2. Notre Dame – 137 (2)
3. Columbia – 121
4. Ohio State – 120
5. Penn State – 111
6. St. John’s – 105
7. Northwestern – 88
8. Harvard – 85
9. Temple – 67
10. Penn – 60
Also Receiving Votes – Duke 56, Cornell 29, Brown 21, Stanford 21, Yale 10, North Carolina 7, Sacred Heart 5, MIT 3, Boston College 2, Stevens Tech 2, UC San Diego 2, and Johns Hopkins 1.
Voting Panel – Michael Aufrichtig (Columbia), Janusz Bednarski (Notre Dame), Zoltan Dudas (Princeton), Sydney Fadner (Boston College), Nikki Franke (Temple), Emmanuil Kaidanov (Penn State), Josh Runyan (UC San Diego), Laurie Schiller (Northwestern), Bill Shipman (Brandeis) and Tom Vrabel (Sacred Heart).
(note – coach Franke votes only on the women’s poll)