NCAA FENCING CHAMPIONSHIPS: DAY FOUR RECAP
WALTHAM, Mass. – The final day of action at the 2016 NCAA National Collegiate Fencing Championships, held at Brandeis University, saw three repeat winners. Two individuals achieved the feat, while Columbia University was crowned the team champions for the second year running.
The Lions took a 13-point lead into the day, and though it closed to double digits at certain points throughout the day, the repeat was not really in question. Columbia finished with a seven-point victory, 174-167, over The Ohio State University, thanks to a balanced attack that saw them score 30 points in three of the six weapons and not less than 24 in any of them.
"To come out ahead shows what a great group of individuals we have on our team," Columbia coach Michael Aufrichtig said. "Other than all the practices and workouts and all the preparation, one of the main things it came down to is their heart, their love for each other. So when they're out there on the strip, they're fencing for not just themselves but for their entire team."
Columbia is the first repeat NCAA Fencing champion since Penn State in 2009 and 2010. It's the Lions' fourth overall combined title since the championship went to this format in 1990. They also won back-to-back titles in 1992 and 1993.
Ohio State finished in second place despite qualifying one less than the maximum 12 qualifiers for the championship. The Buckeyes had the second-highest score of any men's squad today with the 35 points turned in by their epeeists. Along with the 40 points turned in by their women's foil squad, OSU finished ahead of three teams that qualified the maximum 12 fencers. Princeton and St. John's University each finished with 161 points, with the Tigers edging the Red Storm on indicator, 147-106. Notre Dame was just behind in fifth place with 160 points.
In individual action, the repeat winners came in epee and sabre. For the second time, the sabre champion had local ties, as Westwood, Mass., native Andrew Mackiewicz of Penn State, joined women's champion Adrienne Jarocki of Harvard. Mackiewicz – the top seed after going 19-4 in the round robin – defeated Edward Chin of Princeton in the semifinals, 15-11, by closing on a 6-2 run after the bout was tied at 9-9. In the second semifinal, St. John's Ferenc Valkai – a two-time runner-up – avenged his 2014 loss to Kaito Streets of Penn State, 15-11. In the rematch of the 2015 final (15-10 for Mackiewicz), Valkai started strong and took an 8-6 lead at the halfway point. Mackiewicz scored the first three points after the break to go ahead, 9-8, and pulled away for a 15-11 win.
"It was a lot of hard work, but I persevered at the end and I'm happy I came out on top," Mackiewicz said. He is the first repeat men's sabre winner since Daryl Homer of St. Johns did so in 2010 and 2011, and the ninth back-to-back winner in the event in NCAA history.
The epee title was claimed by top-seeded Jake Hoyle of Columbia, who defeated Marc-Antoine Blais of Ohio State in the finals. Both fencers had dramatic entrances into the finals, winning their semifinals by a 15-14 score. Hoyle defeated Lewis Weiss of Ohio State in the semis, while Blais upset 2014 champion Yevgeniy Karyuchenko.
Hoyle trailed Weiss, 10-4, midway through the second period, but rallied to get within 10-7 by the start of the third. He extended the run to six out of seven points, climbing within 12-11, but a double-touch got Weiss two points from advancing. After Hoyle went ahead, with two more points, including a touch behind his head, Weiss tied it at 14 with 27 seconds left. Hoyle then snuck the winning touch under Weiss's shoulder to advance to the final, closing the match on an 11-4 run.
In the other semi, Blaise fell behind early but scored five touches in a row to take a 9-6 lead early in the third. Karyuchenko trailed, 12-9 as the clock crept under a minute left, but he rallied and scored a touch with just three seconds left to force a one-minute overtime. Midway through, Blais got a touch on the helmet to punch his ticket to the finals.
In the finals, Hoyle again fell behind Blais early, 4-1, but caught up at 4-4. Hoyle took his first lead at 7-6 and never looked back, scoring eight of the final 11 touches to take the 15-11 victory. With the win, Hoyle became the third repeat champion since 2007, joining Wayne State's Viacheslav Zingerman (2007-08-09) and St. Johns' Marat Israelian (2010-11). Hoyle is the sixth Columbia fencer to win the NCAA epee crown.
"It feels amazing," said Hoyle. "I just wanted to go out there and give as much as I can."
The day's lone newcomer to the top of the award podium was Ohio State sophomore Max Chastanet. In the semifinals, he took down Columbia's Adam Mathieu. Despite a marked height disadvantage, Chastanet used quickness and guile to take a 10-5 lead after one period. Mathieu never got closer than four points the rest of the way and Chastanet took it, 15-10.
The second semifinal saw Penn State senior Nobuo Bravo, a two-time semifinalist (2nd in 2015, 3rd in 2014) against Notre Dame freshman Axel Kiefer, whose sisters Alex and Lee have four NCAA foil titles combined. The match was tight through the early going, with neither fencer getting more than a two-touch advantage. Bravo was ahead, 11-9, but Kiefer tied it at 11. Bravo responded by scoring the final four touches of the match to take it, 15-11.
Chastanet made the final anticlimactic, as he jumped out to a 4-0 lead that he expanded to 8-2 by the end of the first. Chastanet ended up winning going away, 15-3, in the most lopsided men's final since at least 2000.
"It feels great," Chastanet said of his win. "It's very rewarding, with all the hours and time spent on this trip." He is the first Ohio State foil champion since Zain Shaito in 2012 and the fourth different Buckeye to take the crown.
In all, four different schools accounted for the individual championships, with Ohio State and Penn State winning two each, while Columbia and Harvard each won one.