March 28, 2007
By Pete LaFleur and Greg Touney
Six members of the Notre Dame men’s fencing program recently completed an impressive performance at the 2007 NCAA Championships, with all six receiving All-America honors. Senior Patrick Ghattas led the way by reaching the sabre final bout for the third time while completing his fourth career All-America performance. An overview wrapup of the 2007 NCAAs for the ND men’s fencing team follows below (see similar wrapup for the women, posted earlier on und.com).
See the following HTML link for complete team and individual standings (including individual bout matrixes and medal-round brackets):
Junior foilist Jakub Jedrkowiak overcame a slow start to place 9th for his third career All-America finish.
SABRE MEDAL-ROUND NOTES – Ghattas faced Ben Igoe of Rutgers in the semifinals and jumped out to a 2-0 lead, only to see Igoe scored five of the next six touches for a 5-3 lead … Ghattas responded with five touches in a row to make it 8-5 at the break … his lead never went lower than two, with Ghattas landing the final attack for the 15-12 win … Ghattas also claimed an early cushion in the final (3-0), vs. Harvard’s Tim Hagamen, who eventually forged a 5-5 tie … the fencers then traded points, with Ghattas going into the break up 8-7 … the bout stayed tight until Hagamen stretched to a 13-11 lead – but Ghattas then rallied with three straight to go ahead 14-13 … Ghattas then went for a stomach cut but was too low and Hagamen landed his touch on the counterattack (14-14) … on the final touch, Hagamen attacked into Ghattas’ preparation with a forearm cut, ending the exciting final at 15-14.
SUPER SIX-PACK – The Notre Dame men produced six All-Americans (top-12) for just the third time (also ’01 and ’03), since the current format was adopted in 1995 … in addition to the runner-up finish by Ghattas, junior foilist Jakub Jedrkowiak (9th) picked up his third All-America honor, his classmate Greg Howard was 8th in epee and three sophomores also added top-12 finishes: sabreist Bill Thanhouser (6th/tied for 4th), foilist Mark Kubik (7th) and epeeist Karol Kostka (11th) … Kubik made a big jump from his 20th-place finish in 2006, as did Kostka (who was 18th in ’06) … Kostka faced a 4-2 deficit in his final bout vs. Columbia’s Max Czapanskiy but rallied for the 5-4 win that secured his All-America status … the 85 total wins by the ND men at the 2007 NCAAs are most by an Irish men’s contingent since the 2003 team totaled 94 … the 12 previous years of the current format include four other years in which the ND men totaled more than the ’07 squad: 89 in ’95, 96 in ’00, 92 in ’01 and 89 in ’02 … the six ND men’s All-Americans in 2001 included foilists Ozren Debic (5th) and Forest Walton (9th), epeeists Jan Viviani (3rd) and Brian Casas (7th), and sabreists Andre Crompton (7th) and Andrzej Bednarski (10th) … two years later, six ND men helped the Irish win the 2003 NCAA title: Debic (4th), Viviani (10th), foilist Derek Snyder (5th), sabreists Matt Fabricant (6th) and Gabor Szelle (11th), and epeeist Michal Sobieraj (2nd).
COMMENTS FROM ND HEAD COACH Janusz Bednarski – “The two days of men’s bouting were very interesting. I expected that it would be a tough event and I had a feeling that our kids would fence strongly, and they did. We are not the strongest team in the nation, but we had some good bouts and good matches. A couple of them were surprising. Of course, I would give a lot of bouts for Patrick to get a gold medal because he was the best fencer for sure by his performance in the pools and in the medal bouts. In the final bout, he simply lost the touch in the last moments. Perhaps it was a lack of attention. He was a bit disappointed that his action, which was an attempt at a stomach cut at 14-13, did not get a light. This was a strong performance by our team and we have been showing that we have good kids and a good team. We are one of the top teams in the nation and we hope that we will progress as we have been doing.”
COMMENTS FROM ND ASSISTANT COACH Gia Kvaratskhelia – “For the men, I think – as a foil team – we did better than average. Mark Kubik had a really good performance compared to last year – he doubled his win total from last year to this year. Jedrkowiak had a rough first day. He got off to a pretty bad start and his confidence was shaky but he finished strong. I am very proud of both of them for a strong all-around year and am excited looking forward to next season.”
COMMENTS FROM SENIOR SABREIST Patrick Ghattas – All of our guys fenced great. I’m very happy with everyone’s performances as a team. There has been a great atmosphere here and a lot of excitement, obviously. We had six All-Americans for the men’s, something that has not happened for us in a while. We have a lot to be proud of because everyone fenced really well … It’s great when both fencers are really on, because you feed off of each other. When Bill’s fencing well and beats some guy, it motivates me and gets me really excited and focused to fence. He’s a great guy – it’s nice because we’re from the same club. We’ve been practicing together and grew up together. It’s nice to have someone who is a familiar face when you’re fencing in such a stressful tournament like the NCAAs … I’ve fenced guys like Igoe and Hagamen a lot – we’ve traveled to the international World Cups together. I’ve seen them fence and they’ve seen me fence, so we’re familiar with each other even if we don’t fence during the college dual meets. It’s different at the NCAAs, because this is a competition like no other one so we might fence differently because of it. During the past two days, though, things worked out pretty well.”
Sophomore sabreist Bill Thanhouser impressively tied for 4th in his first taste of NCAA tournament fencing.
DYNAMIC SABRE DUO – Ghattas (18-5) and Thanhouser (17-6) had the most combined men’s sabre wins at the 2007 NCAAs, marking the fifth time that an ND duo has owned the most men’s sabre wins (also ’96, ’99, 2000 and ’03) … since the current format was adopted in 1995, only two previous ND men’s sabre duos have won more bouts at the NCAAs: Gabor Szele (20; 1st) and Andrzej Bednarski (17; 5th) in 2000 (37), and Bill Lester (21; 3rd) and Luke LaValle (15; 5th) in 1997 (36) … Ghattas and Thanhouser combined to go on an 18-bout winning streak (spanning the two days), which was ended when Ghattas lost to PSU’s Franz Boghicev (3-5) … that streak included a sweep of the OSU fencers … Thanhouser’s impressive 17 wins in his NCAA debut included his first career victories over OSU’s Mike Momtselidze and Ben Igoe of Rutgers (the eventual 3rd-place finisher).
THREE-TIME FINALIST – Ghattas became just the third Notre Dame fencer ever to reach three or more NCAA title bouts … men’s sabreist Mike Sullivan won the 1977 and ’78 NCAA titles before finishing as the 1979 runner-up while recent women’s foilist Alicja Kryczalo was a three-time NCAA champion (’02-’04) and the ’05 runner-up …
EPEE AND FOIL BOOST – The Notre Dame men received a major boost in victory totals from the epee and foil fencers at the 2007 NCAAs, with both squads totaling 25 wins and two All-Americans each (the ’06 NCAA featured no men’s epee All-Americans for the Irish and one, Jedrkowiak, in foil) … the ND men’s foilists and epeeists both finished 5th in the 2007 NCAA standings, with the foilists improving one spot and six wins while the epeeists made a jump from 8th in ’06 (when they won just 18 bouts).
FOUR NEW ALL-AMERICANS – NCAA rookies Howard and Thanhouser joined second-year competitors Kubik and Kostka in all posting their first All-America finishes at the NCAAs … there has been just one previous time that an ND men’s fencing team has featured four first-time All-Americans (and it came when there were three entrants per weapon) … the 1990 NCAAs saw foilist Noel Young (3rd), sabreist James Taliafero (7th) and the epee duo of Jubba (1st and David Calderhead (3rd) all earn All-America honors.
KEY HEAD-TO-HEAD SHOWDOWNS – Notre Dame’s ability to outdistance Ohio State and Harvard while keeping close to Columbia was set up by the ND men winning two more bouts than they lost vs. the other five top contending teams: 7-4 vs. OSU, 6-4 vs. Harvard, 6-6 vs. SJU and Columbia, and 5-6 vs. PSU … the men’s sabreists were 11-9 vs. the contenders while the other weapons had an even split (9-9 in epee, 10-10 in foil) … Ghattas went 6-4 vs. fencers from the top teams (swept OSU and SJU; 1-1 with the Ivy League schools) while Howard’s NCA debut included going 5-4 vs. foes from the top contenders (1-1 vs. four of the teams, plus 1-0 vs. Harvard) … Howard was the only ND men’s fencer to post at least one win over each of the five top opposing teams … Thanhouser (swept OSU, 1-1 vs. PSU, SJU and Columbia), Kubik (swept PSU, 1-1 with others except OSU) and Jedrkowiak (swept Harvard, 1-1 vs. all others but PSU) all turned in 5-5 records vs. the top-five teams, with Kostka adding a 4-5 showing (1-1 vs. PSU, OSU and Columbia, 1-0 vs. Harvard) … the 11 total ND fencers combined for +8 in wins (57-49) vs. the other contending teams, including 14-6 vs. Harvard and 12-8 vs. OSU (plus 11-11 vs. both SJU and Columbia, and 9-13 vs. PSU).
ONE-TOUCH BOUTS – The Irish men combined to go 26-21 (+5) in one-touch bouts at the 2007 NCAAs (3-1 by Thanhouser, 7-4 by Kostka, 4-3 by Ghattas and Howard, 5-5 by Jedrkowiak, 3-5 by Kubik) … the ND women then were narrowly sub-.500 in their one-touch bouts (12-13), making the ND contingent +4 overall (48-44) in one-touch decisions at the ’07 NCAAs.
Epeeist Greg Howard was the only Notre Dame men’s fencer to beat an opponent from each of the other top-five contending teams.
POINTS IN PERSPECTIVE – Notre Dame’s final point total at the 2007 NCAAs (160) actually was eight higher than the 2006 Irish squad (152), which had the benefit of sending 12 competitors to the NCAAs … the 2001 ND team also totaled fewer points (153, with 12 fencers) than the 2007 team, which likewise outscored the 11 ND fencers who competed at the 2004 NCAAs (153).
ALL-AMERICA SURGE – The Notre Dame men (6) and women (3) improved their combined total of All-Americans (top-12) from seven in 2006 to nine at the ’07 NCAAs … only the 2002 (10) and ’03 (11) teams have produced more All-Americans than the 2007 Irish contingent that competed at the NCAAs (the 2000 and ’05 teams also had nine All-Americans each).
GENDER BALANCE – The 2007 NCAAs marked the ninth time (third straight year, fourth in past five) that Notre Dame has sent a fencer to the title bout in both a men’s weapon and a women’s event … those years include:
1986 (foil runner-up Yehuda Kovacs, foil champ Molly Sullivan)
1988 (epee runner-up Todd Griffee, foil champ Sullivan)
1990 (epee champ Jubba Beshin, foil runner-up Heidi Piper)
1991 (three men’s runner-ups in foilist Noel Young, epeeist Beshin and sabreist Leszek Nowosielski, plus women’s foil champ Piper)
1995 (sabre runner-up Bill Lester, foil runner-up Maria Panyi)
2003 (epee runner-up Michael Sobieraj, foil champ Alicja Kryczalo)
2005 (three women’s runner-ups, in foilist Kryczalo, epeeist Amy Orlando and sabreist Mariel Zagunis, plus men’s epee champ Sobieraj and sabre runner-up Ghattas)
2006 (sabre runner-up Ghattas, sabre champ Zagunis)
2006 (sabre runner-up Ghattas, epee runner-up Hurley)
THREE-TIMERS IN THE MEDAL ROUND – Ghattas (2nd from ’05-’07) preceded Providenza (1st in ’04, 4th in ’05 and ’07) in making his third trip to the semifinals/medal round, and thus receiving elite first team All-America status … Ghattas previous finished 4th in the 2005 round-robin (18-5) and was atop the ’06 round-robin (20-3) before his 3rd-place finish in ’07 (18-5) … five previous men’s fencers ever have reached the NCAA semifinal round three-plus times: sabreists Mike Sullivan (’77 and ’78 champion, ’79 runner-up, 3rd in ’76) and Leszek Nowosielski (’91 runner-up, 3rd in ’90, 4th in ’88), foilists Charles Higgs-Coulthard (’84 champion, 3rd in ’86, 4th in ’85 and ’87) and Ozren Debic (’00 runner-up, 4th in ’02 and ’03) and epeeist Michal Sobieraj (’05 champ, ’03 runner-up, 3rd in ’04) … five previous ND women’s fencers (all foilists) had reached the semifinals three or more times, including four-time medalist (1s-3rd) Alicja Kryczalo (1st in ’02-’04, 2nd in ’05) and three others who each own three NCAA medals: Molly Sullivan (1st in ’86 and ’88, 3rd in ’87), Sara Walsh (2nd in ’96 and ’97, 3rd in ’98) and Andrea Ament (2nd in ’02 and ’04, 3rd in ’03) … Heidi Piper was the 1991 NCAA foil champ and ’90 runner-up, plus 4th in ’92.
FANTASTIC FOUR-TIME ALL-AMERICANS – Ghattas (10th in ’04) and Providenza (also 9th in ’06) joined the elite list of Notre Dame’s all-time four-year All-Americans, a group that now includes five women’s foilists, four men’s foilists, four men’s sabreists, two men’s epeeists, one multi-weapon women’s fencer and Providenza from women’s sabre (17 total) … Ghattas is the first ND men’s sabre fencer to be a four-year All-American since Luke LaValle (’99), with others including Mike Sullivan (’79) and Leszek Nowosielski (’91) … just nine other Notre Dame student-athletes (for 26 total) ever have been four-year All-Americans: basketball great Kevin O’Shea (’50), women’s soccer players Holly Manthei (’98 graduate), Jen Grubb (’00) and Anne Makinen (’01), distance runners Oliver Hunter (’43), Mike McWilliams (’93), Ryan Shay (’01) and Luke Watson (’03), and baseball pitcher Aaron Heilman (’00) … the other 12 ND fencers who have been four-year All-Americans include women’s foilists Molly Sullivan (’88), Myriah Brown (’99), Sara Walsh (’99), Alicja Kryczalo (’05) and Andrea Ament (’05), men’s foilists Yehuda Kovacs (’89), Charles Higgs-Coulthard (’87), Jeremy Siek (’97) and Ozren Debic (’03), men’s epeeists Jan Viviani (’03) and Michael Sobieraj (’03), and women’s epeeist/foilist Magda Krol (’00) … Ghattas and Providenza are the fourth set of classmates to be four-year All-Americans (also Brown, Walsh and LaValle in 1999, Viviani and Debic in ’03, and the potent 2004 departing trio of Kryczalo, Ament and Sobieraj).
Ghattas went down fighting to the final touch to cap an impressive four-year run at the NCAAs.
KUBA PICKS UP THIRD – Jedrkowiak (a.k.a. “Kuba”) now has placed 7th-8th-9th in his three trips to the NCAAs, with a chance to join the above list as a four-time All-American in 2008 … in addition to the 17 ND fencers who have been four-year All-Americans, there now are 10 who have received the honor three times: men’s sabreists Don Johnson (’84-’86), Bill Lester (’95-’97), Andrzej Bednarski (’98, ’00, ’01) and Gabor Szele (’99, ’00, ’03); men’s foilists Jim Russamano (’58-’60) and Jedrkowiak; men’s epeeist Tim Glass (’75-’77); and women’s epeeists Anna Carnick (’00-’02), Meagan Call (’00, ’01, ’03) and Kerry Walton (’02-’04).
ONE OF THE ALL-TIME BEST – Ghattas firmly entrenched himself as one of Notre Dame’s top all-time performers at the NCAAs, amassing a 69-23 career record in NCAA round-robin bouts (.750; includes 13-10 in ’04) … only two ND men’s fencers ever have totaled more NCAA round-robin wins: sabreist Mike Sullivan (95-9) and foilist Ozren Debic (73-19), with Ghattas finishing one win higher than former teammate Michal Sobieraj (epee) … four ND women’s fencers have totaled more NCAA round-robin wins than Ghattas, with that group including Providenza (71-19) and two former teammates – foilists Alicja Kryczalo (84-8) and Andrea Ament (75-17) – plus late 1980s foil standout Molly Sullivan (80-12).
Jedrkowiak (right) again should be among the favorites for the NCAA foil title, in 2008.
WEAPON HISTORY – Here’s an updated breakdown of Notre Dame’s NCAA success at each of the men’s weapons:
Men’s Foil (5th in ’07): 48 All-America awards (16 since 1990, 13 since ’96) … three NCAA champions, plus five runner-ups … four four-time All-Americans … since ’85, squad has finished first at NCAAs four times (’86, ’94, ’97, ’03), second four times (’85, ’91, ’00, ’02) and third three times (’87, ’88, ’01).
Men’s Epee (5th in ’07): 54 All-America awards (20 since 1990, 12 since ’96) … five NCAA champions, plus four runner-ups and two four-time All-Americans … since ’85, squad has finished first at NCAAs once (’86), second seven times (’88, ’94, ’98, ’00-’03).
Men’s Sabre (1st in ’07): 60 All-American awards (27 since ’90, two every year from ’96-’01, plus ’03 and ’05-`07) … four NCAA champions, plus seven runner-ups and four four-year All-Americans … since ’85, squad has finished first at NCAAs five times (’96, ’99, ’00, ’03, `07), second seven times (’85, ’90, ’91, ’97, ’01) and third five times (’88, ’92, ’94, ’95, ’98).