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Fencing: Irish ready for USFA National Junior Olympics

John Sandberg | Friday, February 15, 2013

Notre Dame fencers return to the mats today for another East Coast event as they square off in the USFA National Junior Olympics in Baltimore, one week removed from competing in the Duke Duals.

The Junior Olympic Championship, which runs today through Monday, is open only to those fencers ages 20 and under, providing a good test for several of the underclassmen fencers.

Freshmen epeeists Garrett McGrath and John Poremski will start things off for the Irish today on the men’s side. McGrath is ranked third in the preliminary seeding of 227 fencers. Poremski is seeded No. 61. 

On the women’s side, the top ranked Irish are coming off a 2-1 performance last weekend. Freshman Sarah Followill will compete today in the women’s foil, which begins at 1 p.m.

Saturday’s highlights will include the men’s saber competition. Freshman John Hallsten will take the mat for the Irish. Hallsten has been a solid contributor for the men’s team all season. Last weekend at Duke Hallsten combined with senior teammate Jason Choy in leading the men’s saber team to a 17-10 record on the day.

Hallsten has set his personal goal for the weekend high, as he said he is aiming to win the men’s saber competition. He has some experience in that category, having won this same tournament last year. 

While this weekend’s tournament is composed primarily of fencers with little experience at the NCAA level, the event looks to be as competitive as any other for the Irish. Hallsten said it’s important to maintain the same level of focus that he’s had throughout the previous competitions.

“It stays the same,” Hallsten said about his mindset. “If you think about your opponent too much you take yourself out of the mindset of just winning.”

Hallsten also said he and the other freshmen on this Irish team have quickly been gaining confidence throughout this season. This increasing confidence can be attributed, at least in some part, to the attitude the Notre Dame coaching staff has been promoting among all of their fencers.

“We’ve really been focusing on helping each other out,” Hallsten said. “I kind of felt like last weekend some guys got down and other guys had to pick them back up. This week in practice everyone has been working a little bit harder with that.”

This weekend’s competition ultimately presents a prime opportunity for the Irish men to get back on track after a frustrating tournament at Duke last weekend, in which the men went 1-2. Despite the disappointment last weekend, Hallsten said there is still value to be taken from it and applied to future bouts.

“If you’re struggling just don’t back off,” Hallsten said. “If you just keep looking forward you’re not going to worry what’s behind you and you’re not going to focus on wins or losses that were in the past. If you just focus on the next bout I feel like that’s the best way to keep your confidence up.”

Action begins today at 8 a.m. with the men’s epee competition.

Contact John Sandberg at jsandb1@nd.edu