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Fencing; Deep Irish squad downs Buckeyes

Ken Fowler | Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Ohio State stood tall, but Notre Dame showed off its depth at the Midwest Regional on March 2.

Buckeyes fencers captured titles in five of the six events at the Regional in Detroit, but the Irish earned 11 medal positions, compared to Ohio State’s seven.

With that, and the combined results from the regular season, Notre Dame automatically qualified the maximum 12 fencers to the national event, which begins Thursday.

The Buckeyes, meanwhile, earned 11 automatic berths. Ohio State senior epeeist Kaela Brendler finished ninth at the Regional but received an at-large bid to the NCAA Championships to give the Buckeyes the maximum 12 entrants.

A year ago, Penn State earned the national title ahead of second-place St. John’s and third-place Columbia. Notre Dame and Ohio State qualified only 11 fencers in 2007, but finished fourth and fifth, respectively.

This time, Ohio State, Notre Dame, St. John’s and Columbia will be the only teams with the full allotment at the national event. Ohio State, ranked No. 1 on the women’s side and No. 2 on the men’s side, will also have another factor playing in its favor – home-strip advantage.

Irish coach Janusz Bednarski said Ohio State is the favorite, but he is looking forward to the event, at which seven of the Notre Dame fencers will be freshmen.

“It’s encouraging and it’s a little bit scary,” Bednarski said of the youth movement.

He said that the young team is not fully prepared for the “intense pressure” of the national event, but that they are “mentally strong.”

“A young team is always unpredictable,” he said.

The story from the Regional, though, was the back-and-forth between the Buckeyes and Irish, who look poised to make a run at the title. That is, if they don’t knock each other off in the process.

Notre Dame’s sweep of the medal positions in the men’s epee – Karol Kostka earning gold; Greg Schoolcraft, silver; and Greg Howard, bronze – was the only such dominance in any weapon.

Ohio State’s Andras Horanyi won the men’s foil competition, but Irish freshmen Zach Schirtz and Steve Kubik were the other medalists. In men’s sabre, Buckeye fencers Sergey Smirnov and Dexter Wilde took the top two spots, respectively, and Notre Dame freshman Barron Nydam placed third.

Buckeye Alexandra Obrazcova won the women’s epee event, while Northwestern’s Christa French earned second and Irish sophomore Kelley Hurley took fourth.

In women’s foil, Buckeye Oksana Dmytruk bested Notre Dame junior Adrienne Nott and freshman Hayley Reese.

Irish freshman sabreist Sarah Borrmann finished third, behind Ohio State champion Siobhan Byrne and Buckeyes runner-up Eileen Grench.