March 28, 2004
WALTHAM, Mass. – Notre Dame junior epeeist Michal Sobieraj – the 2003 NCAA runner-up – put himself in position for another run at the title after winning 11 of his 14 bouts in Saturday’s first day of men’s competition at the NCAA combined fencing championships. The four-day event concludes on Sunday at Brandeis University’s Gosman Center, with nine more bouts for each men’s fencer, followed by the individual semifinals and finals and then the presentation of the team awards.
Notre Dame qualified just five men’s fencers into the NCAA field and now trails leader Ohio State by 27 points (159-132) in the quest for the men’s and women’s combined title. Penn State, which joined OSU in qualifying the maximum six men’s fencers, is five points behind the Irish in third place (127).
Sobieraj is tied for second atop the epee standings while fifth-year foilist Forest Walton also is in position for All-America honors, standing tied for 11th after a 7-7 start. Three freshmen – foilist Frank Bontempo (5-9) and sabres Patrick Ghattas (7-7) and Matthew Stearns (6-8) – round out the Notre Dame contingent, with Bontempo taking the place of his injured teammate and two-time All-American Derek Snyder. Ghattas is 13th in the sabre standings and could move up to All-America status with a strong showing on Sunday.
Sobieraj’s noteworthy wins on Saturday came versus current 3rd-place fencer Benjamin Bratton of St. John’s (5-4) and 8th-place Dana Sanford of Drew (5-1). He also posted a 5-3 win over Princeton’s Ben Solomon (who placed 5th at the ’03 NCAAs) and bested Harvard’s Julian Rose (7th in ’03) in a 5-2 bout.
Sunday’s nine bouts for Sobieraj include showdowns with PSU’s Adam Wiercioch (his Poland countryman) and Alex Bruske and OSU’s Denis Tolkachev and Spencer Jones (Tolkachev and Wiercioch stand 4th and 5th in the standings, with Jones 9th). He also has two other bouts versus fencers currently in the top 10: Air Force’s Jason Stockdale (6th) and Stanford’s Martin Lee (10th).
Walton and Bontempo swept two fencers who are on pace for 2004 All-America honors: 11th-place Florida Reichling of Stanford (Walton 5-3, Bontempo 5-2) and 12th-place Roland Breden of Cal State Fullerton’s Roland Brenden (both 5-1). Walton also posted wins over current 4th-place fencer Andy Radu of Penn (5-2), 6th-place Enoch Woodhouse of Harvard (5-4) and 10th-place Michael Galligan of Penn (5-4) – with Bontempo posting a 5-4 win over Walton.
Top foil bouts on ND’s Sunday schedule include three fencers currently on pace for an All-America finish: Columbia’s Jeremy Sinkin (5th), PSU’s Ian Schlaepfer (7th) and Jesse Schiblia of Rutgers (11th).
Top wins for Ghattas came vs. Columbia’s Paul Reyfman (5-4; now tied for 6th), NYU’s Andrew Magee (5-2; now 9th) and Harvard’s David Jakus (5-1; now 11th), with those fencers currently occupying the respective 8th, 9th and 11th places. Stearns also beat Reyfman (5-4), Jakus (10-1) and Barton (10-4) while adding wins over Columbia’s Alexander Krul (currently 3rd; 11-3) and PSU’s Marten Zagunis (5th; 5-3). Notre Dame’s Sunday sabre schedule will include three fencers who currently are on pace for All-Amercia honors: SJU’s Serghey Isayenko (2nd) and Darren Whitmer (10th) and Stanford’s Curtis Andrus (6th).
Notre Dame totaled just a 1-7 record in Saturday’s head-to-head bouts vs. OSU (plus 1-3 vs. PSU). Ohio State’s cushion was boosted by undefeated starts from defending sabre champ Adam Crompton and foilist Boaz Eukke.