March 24, 2017
By Joanne Norell
INDIANAPOLIS — The University of Notre Dame held onto its lead in the team standings, while three new individuals captured national titles on the final day of men’s competition Friday at the 2017 National Collegiate Fencing Championship at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum.
Notre Dame and Ohio State have each earned 86 points through two days of competition, with the Irish owning an edge in indicator. Columbia sits in third place with 77 points while St. John’s (75) and Harvard (73) round out the top five. Notre Dame, Columbia and Harvard each have 138 bouts remaining with six women competing on Saturday and Sunday. Ohio State has 115 bouts remaining (five women’s fencers), while St. John’s has 69 (three women’s fencers).
Notre Dame had five men’s fencers finish in the top eight — meaning they were Second Team All-Americans or better — while St. John’s boasted four such student-athletes. Ohio State and Harvard had three fencers finish in the top eight, while Columbia claimed two.
Cooper Schumacher (men’s epee) and Andras Nemeth (men’s foil) of St. John’s, and Harvard’s Eli Dershwitz (men’s sabre) each became first-time national champions, capping the first half of competition atop the podium.
St. John’s foilist Andras Nemeth recorded the upset of the day en route to claim the men’s foil crown, downing the world’s No. 1-ranked foilist in the semifinal to reach the championship, before downing the tournament’s top seed.
Nemeth, the No. 3 seed heading into the semifinal, defeated two-time national champion and current FIE No. 1 Alexander Massialas of Stanford in a tight semifinal bout, pulling of a 15-13 win to ensure his place on the strip. Then, he powered past No. 1 seed Nolen Scruggs of Columbia 15-9 to take the gold in the final.
In the first semifinal, top seed Nolen Scruggs of Columbia led defending champion Maximilian Chastenet of Ohio State 6-0 before Chastenet rattled off five straight touches to narrow the margin to one. Scruggs appeared to pull away again, taking a 12-8 lead, but Chastenet tied it at 13 and then went ahead 14-13. Scruggs, however, snared the next two touches to win a 15-14 thriller.
The top three in foil reordered themselves by the end of round robins on Friday, with Scruggs ascending from third to first to earn the top seed into the semifinal with a 17-6 mark (+31 indicator). Massialas snared the second seed after posting a 16-7 record (+43) while Nemeth rose from sixth to third, also with a 16-7 showing (+36). Chastenet (16-7, +30) rounded out the top four.
Cooper Schumacher of St. John’s claimed his first NCAA title, defeating Justin Yoo of Pennsylvania 15-8 in the championship to go out a winner as a senior.
Schumacher and Yoo traded touches during the first two periods of the championship, but Schumacher tallied six straight touches after the final break to earn the victory over Yoo. Schumacher was the first new men’s epee champion since 2014 as Columbia’s Jacob Hoyle won the title in each of the last two seasons.
Two of the final four epee fencers — Notre Dame freshman Ariel Simmons and Princeton sophomore Wesley Johnson — made their first NCAA appearance, while Schumacher and Yoo each made their first semifinal appearance.
Schumacher, the event’s top seed, got past No. 4-seeded Simmons, withstanding an early run by the Irish representative to win 15-10 in the semifinal. In the other semifinal bout, Yoo downed Johnson 15-6 to punch his ticket to the title bout.
Some major shifting on Day 2 allowed Schumacher and Simmons to make the top four. Schumacher sat in fifth place after three rounds, but went 7-1 on Friday to top the leaderboard. Simmons was in eighth place after Thursday, but went 6-2 to leapfrog four spots.
Harvard’s Eli Dershwitz took the top seed into the semifinal and didn’t let up, snaring a decisive 15-6 semifinal victory over fourth-seeded Ben Natanzon before going on to defeat Wayne State’s Zaid Elsissy 15-10 in the championship. Dershwitz owned a 14-6 lead over Elsissy before giving up four straight touches, but put an end to the threat on the next exchange.
“It feels great,” Dershwitz said. “I haven’t competed at NCAAs in a while because I took some time off to train and it feels great to be back at this huge tournament with my team supporting me. They were a great inspiration all day and were cheering really loud from back in the stands, and it just feels great to bring a title home for Harvard.”
In the second semifinal, Elsissy picked up an impressive win, defeating Ohio State’s Faras Arfa 15-7.
Dershwitz finished pool play with a 21-2 record, followed by No. 2 seed Arfa with a 17-6 mark, No. 3 Elsissy at 15-8 (+27 indicator) and No. 4 Natanzon also at 15-8 (+24). In fact, four entrants finished in a tie for third place with 15-8 marks, but Elsissy and Natanzon advanced by indicator.
The focus will shift to the women’s competition starting Saturday with rounds 1-3 of foil, epee and sabre. The foil rounds will begin at 9 a.m. ET, followed by epee at 11 a.m. and sabre at 1:30 p.m. at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum.
— ND —