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March 23, 2007

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MADISON, N.J. – Senior Patrick Ghattas led another strong day from Notre Dame’s sabre duo and went on to reach the NCAA title bout for the third straight year – joining former sabre standout Mike Sullivan as the only ND men’s fencers ever to fence in three title bouts – as the Irish men’s fencing team maintained Notre Dame’s third-place standing at the NCAA Combined Championships. The Irish trail longtime rival Penn State by four wins (85-89) and are eight back of leader Columbia, heading into Saturday’s women’s bouts in the third day of the four-day event. All six Notre Dame men’s fencers finished in the top-12 to claim All-America honors, with sophomore Bill Thanhouser (tied for 4th/placed 6th on total-point indicators) nearly joining Ghattas in the semifinals. Both fencers went 7-2 on Friday and combined for the third-highest NCAA round-robin win total (35; 18-5 by Ghattas, 17-6 by Thanhouser) even by an ND men’s sabre duo since the current format began in 1995.

(Note: check back later tonight/Saturday morning for a full recap, including photos from today’s action and quotes from the Irish coaches and fencers, plus detailed result and bout data).

Junior foilist Jakub Jedrkowiak closed strong (6-3) to claim his third career All-America finish (9th; 12-11) while three others earned their first All-America honors: junior epeeist Greg Howard (9th; 13-10/6-3 on Friday), sophomore foilist Mark Kubik (7th; 13-10/4-5) and sophomore foilist Karol Kostka (11th; 12-11/3-6). It marked just the third time in Notre Dame men’s fencing history (also ’01 and ’03) that six Irish competitors have turned in All-America finishes. Ghattas – who beat Ben Igoe of Rutgers in the semifinals (15-12) but lost a heartbreaker to Harvard’s Tim Hagamen in the 15-14 final – became the 25th Notre Dame student-athlete ever to be a four-year All-American (joining 15 other fencers and nine other men’s fencers, three of them sabreists).

Ghattas and Thanhouser swept five noteworthy opponents – Igoe (5-4, 5-3), OSU’s Mike Momtselidze (an eventual semifinalist; both 5-4) and Sergey Smirnov (5-3, 5-0), Tiorian Brown of St. John’s (5-0, 5-3) and Stanford’s Teddy Levitt (both 5-1) – in Friday’s round-robin action, with Ghattas adding a 5-4 win over SJU’s Luther Clements while Thanhouser posted a 5-4 win over Penn State’s Ian Farr (a club teammate of Ghattas and Thanhouser, at the Oregon Fencing Alliance).

Jedrkowiak (5-3) and Kubik (5-1) both knocked off Harvard’s Kai Itameri-Kinter, with Jedrkowiak also beating his teammate Enoch Woodhouse (5-1), plus other top wins over eventual semifinalist Scott Sugimoto of Columbia (5-4) and OSU’s Will Jeter (5-1). Kubik chipped in with a 5-3 victory over SJU’s Alexis Landreville before edging eventual bronze medalist Kurt Getz, 5-4.

Howard (Granger/St. Joseph’s High School) – who trains at the Mishawaka-based Indiana Fencing Academy – combined with Kostka to sweep Harvard’s Teddy Sherrill (4-2, 5-4) and PSU’s Stefan Launer (both 5-4), with Howard adding other top wins over SJU’s Stanley Vaksman (5-2), Stanford’s Clayton Kenney (5-0) and eventuual semifinalist Dwight Smith of Columbia (5-2). Kostka beat the other Columbia fencer, in his 5-4 bout with Max Czapanskiy.