June 28, 2006

Zoltan Dudas – who spent the past four seasons as Janusz Bednarski’s assistant coach with the Notre Dame men’s and women’s fencing teams – will assume his new responsibilities as head fencing coach at Princeton next week. Dudas formally accepted the position at Princeton shortly after the completion of the NCAA Championships in March but has remained at Notre Dame during the past few months. A respected coach with particular experience in foil and epee, Dudas has tutored several elite fencers during his 19-year coaching career – both in his native Hungary and most recently in the Midwest United States – and was a key component to Notre Dame winning the 2003 and 2005 NCAA men’s and women’s combined fencing championships.

The 39-year-old Dudas joins a growing list of former Notre Dame assistant coaches who have thrived at Notre Dame and ultimately departed for head coaching positions on the Division I level. In the past four years, 13 different Notre Dame assistants (from 11 sports) have been named a Division I head coach, including eight in the past 15 months and three in the short time since Dudas was hired by Princeton in late March (see full list below).

“This was a great opportunity for me and my family, because the name of Princeton is like a magnet and a lot of good fencers want to be there,” said Dudas. “We also feel very comfortable with the campus and the services that are there for our family.

“The kids on the fencing team at Notre Dame have been so nice with me. I’ve had a wonderful experience with Notre Dame and will never forget it. Everyone in the athletic department administration and support areas have provided very positive support and assistance and the kids on the team worked very hard and were eager to take instruction. They are a great team and I will miss them very much.

“I never will forget my time at Notre Dame, and not just the victories and championships. I was very proud of this year’s team even though we came up a little short of our goal to win the national championship. They worked very hard but were a young team and sometimes you can make mistakes in that situation. But there were so many examples from that team of kids who worked hard, sometimes through injuries, and wanted to fight harder to help in the team success.

“Being at the NCAAs with the Notre Dame team is something I will never forget. It’s a very different format compared to most other fencing competitions – very exciting and so many emotions. Even after the event, two weeks later, you would still be feeling the affects from all the emotions that go into trying to win the NCAAs as a fencing team. It’s a very special feeling and I’m so glad to have experienced it at Notre Dame.”

Dudas said his experience working side-by-side with Bednarski will have a profound impact on his own head coaching career.

“I had a very positive working relationship and friendship with Janusz and I hope to be able to find a similar level of colleague to work with on my staff at Princeton,” said Dudas.

“Janusz never made me feel inferior as his assistant, always was seeking my opinions and was open to my ideas. It was a very productive arrangement and I feel that I learned a lot from him in terms of how to organize practices and how to work with a college fencing team. Most fencing coaches are used to working one-on-one with their students but there is so much more that goes into coaching an actual college fencing team – so I feel very grateful to have had this great learning experience at a place like Notre Dame.”

Bednarski – who has an assistant coach for eight years at Notre Dame before assuming the head coaching position following the 2003 season – predicts great success for his former assistant as he enters the head-coaching ranks.

“Zoltan came to Notre Dame as a young coach at the moment when our former head coach, Yves Auriol, was getting ready for his retirement. At that time, I was thinking to look for someone more experienced but I was taken by Zoltan’s reliability and the seriousness he was showing in the challenging task of being a fencing coach.

“I did not make a mistake in hiring Zoltan and – during our four years of our working together – I have had not only a reliable assistant and highly-skilled fencing teacher but also a strong colleague in the pursuit for excellence. Princeton should be happy to have him as a head coach and I am sure that he is ready for this job. I wish him and his family all the best in the new place.

“I am sure that we will have another superb fencing specialist who will soon join our assistant coaching staff but we will miss Zoltan’s character and warm, friendly personality blended with his serious approach to the coaching business.”

Dudas served as consultant with the 2002 Notre Dame fencing team before assuming the full-time assistant coach role in 2003. He played a key role in instructing several Notre Dame All-American foilists and epeeists during the 2002-06 seasons and served as a perfect complement to Irish head coach Janusz Bednarski, one of the nation’s premier sabre and epee instructors.

During his five seasons working with the Irish fencing program (’02-’06), Dudas helped guide the Irish foilists and epeeists to 29 All-America finishes and 38 NCAA appearances (with a maximum of 40 in that five-year stretch). He tutored some of the most dominant fencers in Notre Dame’s storied fencing tradition, including the recently-departed “fantastic four” comprised of three-time NCAA women’s foil champion Alicja Kryczalo (from ’02-’04, also the ’05 NCAA runner-up), 2002 NCAA women’s epee champ Kerry Walton (also 5th in ’03 and ’04 runner-up), two-time foil runner-up Andrea Ament (’02, ’04; also 3rd in ’03, 7th in ’05) and 2005 men’s epee champion Michal Sobieraj (also 10th in ’02, 2nd in ’03, 3rd in ’04).

Dudas has coached five elite four-time All-Americans – foilist Ozren Debic, epeeist Jan Viviani (both ’03 grads), Ament, Kryczalo and Sobieraj – who own some of the best career winning percentages for their respective weapons in the Notre Dame record book. Seven others coached by Dudas – foilists Derek Snyder, Jakub Jedrkowiak and Adrienne Nott and epeeists Anna Carnick, Meagan Call, Amy Orlando and Madelein Stephan – have registered All-America honors during the past four seasons. Nott and Stephan both placed sixth at the 2006 NCAAs, representing two of the top finishes ever by Notre Dame freshman fencers.

The Dudas-coached foilists and epeeists combined for a clean sweep of eight All-America finishes at the 2003 NCAAs while totaling nearly 75% of the team’s winning point total (133 of 182). Then, in 2005, Sobieraj, Kryczalo and Orlando each finished among the top-four in their respective round-robins while the foilists and epeeists posted 101 wins to help the Irish win another NCAA title.

Dudas – who received a 1997 Outstanding Coach Award from the Hungary Fencing Association – moved to the U.S. in 2000 and served two years as a coach at Cleveland’s Saturn Fencing Center, where he helped mold Ament into a world-class foilist and epeeist. He also has served as head coach at the Indiana Fencing Academy and (as of Feb., 2006) had coached six World Cup finalists, a 2005 USFA national champion and bronze medalist, plus nearly 70 other finalists in various national events. His fencers have combined to reach the finals (top eight) at 41 North American Cups (17 medalists) and 24 USFA National Championships (16 medalists) while six others have posted medalist finishes at the Junior Olympics. Ten of his fencers and three IFA women’s epee teams have posted top finishes at the Summer Nationals – including six finalists and the silver-medal women’s epee team in ’03.

Dudas tutored several fencers in Hungary who excelled at national tournaments – highlighted by men’s foilist Akos Marinki’s bronze at the 1997 under-15 National Championships. He also coached his under-20 men’s foil team (5th) and under-15 women’s foil squad (4th) to impressive finishes at the 1999 Nationals.

After graduating in 1992 with degrees in geography and physical education from Juhasz Gyula Teachers Training College in Szeged, Hungary, Dudas received a 1996 postgraduate degree in physical education from Janus Pannonius University in Pecs, earning highest coaching qualifications in fencing and five other sports. He taught physical education on the elementary and high school levels, including a seven-year stint (1993-2000) at Szechenyi Istvan High School – where his men’s team handball squad won the 1999 national title.

He participated in a 1988 weekly apprenticeship with legendary fencing master Bela Bay and attended 1997 and `98 nine-day training camps in Szombathely, with coaches hailing from 10 countries. At a 1999 training camp in Veszprem, moderated by top fencing masters, Dudas had the honor to demonstrate actions with Szabo Bence, the 1988 Olympic sabre champion. An accomplished junior fencer in foil and epee, Dudas finished second in epee at the 1984 international Steaua Cup in Romania. He went on to place third at the 1987 Senior Provincial Championship and was a member of the epee team that won the 1988 Division II National Championship (he also fenced with the silver-medal sabre team). Dudas was honored for his sportsmanship as a 1988 recipient of the National Fair Play Award.

Dudas – who has published two in-depth articles on fencing technique and instruction – and his wife Ildiko were married in 2001. The couple has two young daughters, Lili and Gina.

Notre Dame assistant coaches who recently have been named head coaches
(13 total since June of 2002; eight in the past 15 months, including four in 2006):

Michelle Dasso (women’s tennis) – Illinois (June 2006)
Robin Davis (volleyball) – Boise State (April 2006)
Brian Wiese (men’s soccer) – Georgetown (April 2006)
Zoltan Dudas (fencing) – Princeton (March 2006)
David Grewe (baseball) – Michigan State (July 2005)
Pam Mork (women’s rowing) – Cincinnati (June 2005)
Carrie Nixon (women’s swimming and diving) – Notre Dame (May 2005)
Carol Owens (women’s basketball) – Northern Illinois (March 2005)
Alvin Alexander (women’s soccer) – Xavier ( December 2004)
Brian O’Connor (baseball) – Virginia (July 2003)
Anthony Solomon (basketball) – St. Bonaventure (May 2003)
Billy Pate (men’s tennis) – Alabama (July 2002)
Kevin McGuff (women’s basketball) – Xavier (June 2002)