March 18, 2006

The NCAA Combined Fencing Championships completed the third day of the four-day tournament on Saturday and Notre Dame crept closer to the lead, with the Irish now set to enter the final day of the men’s bouts as one of three teams that are clustered within four points atop the leaderboard. Harvard had a strong showing in Saturday’s men’s bouts to surge into first place with 131 points, followed by Penn State (128), defending champion Notre Dame (127), Columbia (119), St. John’s (114) and Ohio State (111).

(Note: some additional bout data has been added to this recap, other details and photos will be posted later Sunday on … also please note that a member of the ND sports information staff will be in Houston on Sunday to provide full coverage as the Irish take aim at the national title – be sure to check the ND Sports Hotline at 574-631-3000, option 8 and then option 3, for live updates at the top of each hour.)

The top three teams and Ohio State each have the maximum six men’s fencers in the field while Columbia and St. John’s have just five. Each of the fencers – a maximum of two per team, in each weapon (epee, foil and sabre) – will fence nine final bouts as the teams battle for the title on Sunday.

Notre Dame managed to keep pace in Saturday’s early action despite winning a total of just 22 bouts in epee and foil – but the Irish sabre fencers matched that win total (22) later in the day, inching Notre Dame closer to the top of the standings.

Junior Patrick Ghattas – the 2005 NCAA runner-up – rattled off a 14-0 record in the sabre bouts while his classmate Matt Stearns ranks 10th with a record of 8-6. Sophomore Jakub Jedrkowiak (8-6) is eighth in the foil standings, with freshman Mark Kubik adding two wins to the foil victory total. Junior Aaron Adjemian and freshman Karol Kostka both turned in records of 6-8 in the first four rounds of the epee competition.

The Irish still have to face Harvard in all three weapons during Sunday’s action, with key bouts also remaining versus Penn State in foil and versus Columbia and St. John’s in both sabre and epee (Columbia has just one epee entrant).

Notre Dame went 11-15 on Saturday versus fencers from the other top competitors (5-3 vs. PSU, 2-2 vs. Columbia, 1-1 vs. SJU, 3-9 vs. OSU), including 5-3 in sabre, 3-5 in epee and 3-7 in foil.

Ohio State’s strong day included a 66-18 record in its 84 bouts, with Harvard picking up the second-most wins (49) on the first day of men’s bouting – followed by Notre Dame (44), Columbia (39) and PSU and SJU (each with 35).

Here are additional notes, sorted by weapon (also look for more in the final tournament recap):

SABRE – Ghattas is +46 in total-point differential after surrendering just 24 points in his 14 bouts (with four 5-0 wins, two 5-1, four 5-2, five 5-3 and just one 5-4) … he continued his recent success versus regional rivals Adam Crompton (the ’03 and ’04 NCAA champ) and fellow three-time All-American Jason Rogers (a member of the 2004 U.S. Olympic team) – with Rogers added to the field as an injury replacement for fellow OSU fencer Mike Momtselidze (note that the NCAA results page still incorrectly lists Momtselidze’s name next to Rogers’ record in Saturday’s bouts … Ghattas scored an early 5-3 win over Crompton (after trailing 3-4) and then shut out Rogers … he also swept the Penn State sabres – Marten Zagunis (5-3; trailed 1-3) and Franz Boghicev (5-2; down 0-2) … Zagunis, the brother of ND women’s sabre champion Mariel Zagunis, reached the NCAA semifinal round in ’03 and ’04 (he did not qualify in ’05) while Boghicev was a 2005 semifinalist and finished atop the ’05 round-robin standings … Ghattas also posted wins over two other All-Americans (5-0 vs. Detroit’s Jaroslaw Jelinek and 5-2 vs. Ben Igoe of Rutgers, after 0-2 deficit) while besting two others who are on pace for All-America honors in ’06: Stanford’s Ted Levitt and Duke’s Peter Truszkowski (both 5-3) … his other wins in the 14-0 day came vs.: Stearns (5-2), Jeremy Simpson of Brandeis (5-2), UNC’s Robert Zeichmann (5-1) and Will Randolph (5-3), Air Force’s C.J. Baran (5-0) and Penn’s Matt Kolasa (5-0) … Stearns scored key wins over Jelinek (5-3), Truszkowski (5-4; trailed 1-3, up 4-3, winning touch by forcing off strip) and Zagunis (5-2), adding wins over Simpson (5-0), Randolph (5-1), Zeichmann (5-1), Baran (5-1) and Kolasa (5-3) … his losses came vs. Ghattas, Rogers (3-5), Crompton (2-5), Levitt (4-5), Boghicev (3-5) and Igoe (0-5) … ND’s nine remaining sabre opponents include four who currently on pace for All-America (top-12) honors: Harvard’s Tim Hagaman and David Jakus, SJU’s Luther Clement and Columbia’s James Williams … Sunday’s other ND foes will include: Columbia’s Alex Diacou (brother of ND senior sabreist Nicholas Diacou), SJU’s Nikita Tsukhlo, NYU’s Andrew Magee, MIT’s Igor Kopylov and Vassar’s Justin Bernstein …

FOIL – Jedrkowiak will be looking for a strong finish to improve on his 7th-place finish from 2005 … he scored key wins vs. Columbia’s Scott Sugimoto (5-3), SJU’s Sam Wunderlich (5-1), Penn’s Michael Galligan (5-3) and 2004 NCAA runner-up Cory Werk of Yale (5-2) … his other wins came vs. Kubik (5-0), MIT’s Spencer Sugimoto (5-0) and the Brandeis duo of Will Friedman (5-2) and Eugene Vortsman (5-3), with Vortsman currently 6th in the standings … his losses were vs.: OSU’s Boaz Ellis (3-5) and Andras Horanyi (1-5), Columbia’s Calvin Chen (4-5), Jesse Schibilia of Rutgers (2-5), Penn’s Ron Berkowsky (2-5) and UNC’s Steve Piantadosi (4-5) … Kubik managed what could prove to be a key win over Columbia’s Chen (5-0) … ND’s nine remaining foil foes include four vs. fencers currently in All-America position: Stanford’s Steve Gerberman, Harvard’s Kai Itameri-Kinter, NYU’s Gave Sinkin (the ’05 runner-up) and Princeton’s Doug Hohonsee … ND’s other bouts on Sunday will fall vs.: Harvard’s Enoch Woodhouse, PSU’s Jeff Chang (a ’05 All-American) and Alexander Louton, Stanford’s Richard Fulton and Air Force’s Nathan Smith.

EPEE – Adjemian’s big wins included a 4-3 overtime win over Air Force’s Jackson Ranes, who currently ranks 5th in the standings (Adjemian tied the bout with 0:20 left in regulation and won with 0:40 left in OT) … he also scored key wins over PSU’s Arthur Urman (5-3) and Jason Henderson of Rutgers (5-3) … Adjemian’s other wins came vs.: Kostka (5-1), Daniel Zielinski of John’s Hopkins (5-3) and Princeton’s Tommi Hurme (5-1) … his losses were vs.: Wayne State’s Marek Petraszek (3-5), AFA’s Jason Stockdale (3-5), Yale’s Michael Pearce (1-5), OSU’s Denis Tolkachev (3-5) and Jason Pryor (4-5), UNC’s Mike Burkhart (4-5), Princeton’s Ben Solomon (2-5) and PSU’s James Moody (1-5) … Kostka knocked off fellow Poland native and ’05 NCAA runner-up Petraszek (5-1), with other key wins over Pryor (5-2), Moody (5-3) and Pearce (5-2) … his other wins came vs.: Burkhart (5-1) and Hurme (5-1) … his other losses were vs.: Stockdale (2-5), Ranes (1-5), Tolkachev (3-5), Solomon (1-5), Zielinski (3-5), Urman (3-5) and Henderson (2-5) … ND’s nine remaining epee opponents include five who are on pace for All-America honors: SJU’s Adam Rodney and Benjamin Bratton, Harvard’s Benji Ungar, Stanford’s Martin Lee and Columbia’s Dwight Smith … other Sunday epee opponents: NYU’s Philip Andrews, Stanford’s Clayton Kenney, Harvard’s Julian Rose (a 2005 All-American) and Boston College’s Sam Richardson … Kostka and Adjemian both are one win out of All-American consideration.