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Fencing: Buckeyes waiting for battle

Chris Masoud | Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Despite another successful weekend for top-ranked Notre Dame, the road ahead will only become more treacherous as the mid-March NCAA Championships fast approach.

Reigning national champion Ohio State has to be feeling confident heading into the upcoming NCAA Midwest Regional. The Buckeyes had Notre Dame’s number at the Midwest Fencing Conference Championships, finishing the event in first place with 1,310 points and edging the Irish by 20 points. That performance earned Ohio State its fourth straight combined conference title.

Seventh-year Irish coach Janusz Bednarski predicted this resurgence from the Buckeyes, who are currently ranked third in the USFCA College Fencing Coaches Poll.

“We will fence Ohio State once again because of NCAA competition, so they will try to get revenge,” Bednarski said after his team’s first weekend of competition in late January.

Ohio State took the men’s foil and epee divisions and women’s sabre and foil divisions after facing the Irish in the finals this weekend. The Buckeyes will have the home advantage next weekend as they host the Midwest Regional in Columbus, Ohio, the final opportunity to qualify fencers for the national championship event.

A fellow Big Ten power, No. 2 Penn State, is also waiting in the wings, ready to take down an Irish team that has played a busy tournament schedule but still have little collegiate experience. Furthermore, newly instated NCAA regulations will limit the championship roster size from years past.

“We are a little bit more talented and we have a bigger bench than Penn State, but it will play for them because their first two fencers are from the national team and are very good,” Bednarski said.

Facing that adversity, the Irish will have to rely on the one constant that has carried the team for most of the year – the talented core of underclassmen fighters.

Bednarski chalks up the youngsters’ success to an unparalleled work ethic and a growing sense of community between the seniors and the newcomers.

“They are adjusting very quickly to the different type of competition, the different type of bouts because definitely it’s a different system,” Bednarski said.

But in the end it may come down to a combination of luck and talent to determine the winner.

“It’s very hard for coaches to predict,” Bednarski said. “I’ve been in this business for so long. There are so many factors we can’t control, especially on such a young team. But anything can happen if we make it to the Bloody Four.”