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Sobieraj Takes Bronze Medal In NCAA Epee, Irish Finish Third

March 28, 2004

WALTHAM, Mass. – Notre Dame junior epeeist Michal Sobieraj (Krakow, Poland) placed third while freshman sabre Patrick Ghattas also earned All-America honors with his 10th-place finish, in Sunday’s final rounds of action at the NCAA combined fencing championships. Ohio State rolled to the team title at Brandeis University’s Gosman Center with 194 points while Penn State (160) edged past Notre Dame (153) into third, with St. John’s making a late charge into fourth (149). Ohio State and Penn State were the only teams that had qualified the maximum 12 competitors, with Notre Dame qualifying 11 (five men) and St. John’s 10 (including six from the nation’s top-ranked men’s squad).

Sobieraj won seven of his nine round-robin bouts on Sunday to finish in a three-way tie atop the epee standings, at 18-5. SJU’s Arpad Horvath earned the top seed into the semifinals (based on a +43 in total-point indicators) while his teammate Benjamin Bratton (+33) earned the second seed and Sobieraj (+31) the third. Bratton then edged Sobieraj in a 15-13 semifinal but Sobieraj – who had finished second at the ’03 NCAAs – bounced back to beat Ohio State’s Denis Tolkachev in the third-place bout (15-8), avenging a 5-1 loss in the round-robin action.

Ghattas closed with a 6-3 record to finish in 10th place with a 13-10 record. His classmate Matt Stearns narrowly missed All-America honors (top 12), placing 14th after a 4-5 record on Sunday to finish 10-13.

Notre Dame’s foil squad suffered a rough final day, combining to win just five bouts while both finishing outside the All-America honors. Fifth-year Forest Walton went 3-6 to finish 9-14 at the NCAAs while freshman Frank Bontempo – an injury replacement for teammate Derek Snyder – won two bouts on Sunday to finish 7-16.

The Irish men struggled in head-to-head bouts versus the top competitors (OSU, PSU and SJU), with Sobieraj (4-2) and Stearns (2-4) representing the only Notre Dame men’s fencers who posted wins over the rival teams.

Sobieraj became the fourth Notre Dame fencer at the ’04 NCAAs to post a third career All-America finish (senior women’s epeeist Kerry Walton and junior foilists Alicja Kryczalo and Andrea Ament did so on Friday) and now is one of 25 all-time ND fencers to compile three-plus All-America finishes (he also was 10th in ’02). The 15 other men’s fencers on that list include just two epeeists: current Northwestern assistant coach Tim Glass (a 1975-77 All-American) and Sobieraj’s former teammate Jan Viviani (ND fencing’s only four-time epee All-American, from ’00-’03).

Sunday’s round-robin highlights for Sobieraj included wins over his countryman Adam Wiercioch of PSU (1-0), OSU’s Spencer Jones (4-3) and Air Force’s Jason Stockdale (5-3) – with each of those fencers earning ’04 All-America honors (Wiercioch tied for 4th but finished out of the semifinals, in 5th).

Sobieraj had defeated Bratton in the round-robin (5-4) but the SJU fencer pulled away from a 9-9 tie in the semifinal to avenge that loss (15-13). Bratton scored the first point on a toe-touch, took a 2-1 lead on a counterattack to the arm and then led 3-2 when Sobieraj missed on a counter. Another Bratton toe-touch yielded a 4-3 lead but Sobieraj converted a quick lunge from close distance and then countered on Bratton’s flesch to take a 5-4 lead into the first break.

Sobieraj stretched to an 8-5 lead before Bratton scored to the hand on a parry-riposte. Another Bratton toe-touch later forged the 9-9 tie and the SJU fencer held an 11-10 edge at the end of the second period. Sobieraj then faced an 11-13 deficit before converting a parry-riposte with 1:22 remaining. But Bratton converted an advance lunge and answered Sobieraj’s parry-riposte with the final touch for the 15-13 win.

It was Sobieraj’s turn to avenge a loss in the bronze-medal bout, after losing to Tolkachev in a Saturday round-robin bout (1-5). A toe-touch allowed Sobieraj to tie the score early (2-2) before Tolkachev’s low lunge produced a double-touch. Sobieraj later went up 6-4 on a toe-touch and added an underhand touch after a Tolkachev lunge (7-4).

A long lunge from Sobieraj later pushed his lead to 9-4 and he stretched to 12-6 after a toe-touch and a hand-touch on the counterattack. The lead grew to 14-6 and Tolkachev scored on a riposted as Sobieraj passed him, followed by a beat-attack for a 14-8 score. The final point then came with 0:17 left in the second period, for the 15-8 win.

Former Notre Dame four-time All-American and two-time NCAA foil champion Molly Sullivan (’88), who currently resides in the Boston area with her family, stopped by the Gosman Center to visit with the Irish fencers and congratulate Kryczalo on her third straight NCAA title.

Several members of the Notre Dame fencing program – in addition to the 11 competitors and Snyder – were on hand to support the Irish. Those individuals included four other alternates (freshman epeeist Aaron Adjemian, senior sabres Brian Dosal and Destanie Milo, and sophomore foilists Colleen Walsh), plus the following 10 fencers who made their own trip to the Boston area in support of the program: senior epeeists North Carey, Mike Macaulay and Nick Schumacher; senior foilist Matt Castellan and freshman epeeist Chris Castellan; junior epeeists Becca Chimahusky and T.J. McNally; sophomore epeeist Marielle Connor; sophomore foilist Monica Real; and freshman epeeist Patrick Ghettings.

OSU’s Adam Crompton – bother of former ND All-America sabre Andre Crompton (who was in attendance this weekend) – repeated as the NCAA sabre champion, besting SJU’s Sergey Isayenko in a 15-14 title bout. OSU’s Boaz Ellis took the foil title after a 15-8 final vs. Yale’s Cory Werk while SJU’s Arpad Horvath beat his teammate Bratton for the epee title (15-8).