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Fencing: Buckeyes to challenge squad

Peter Steiner | Friday, October 26, 2012

After winning multiple national titles in recent years the Irish now have a championship-caliber facility in which to train and compete.

Notre Dame will show off it’s new home – the Castellan Family Fencing Center – on Saturday during the Notre Dame Elite Invitational against Ohio State.

Facing the defending national-champion Buckeyes, the Irish will square off against some of the best fencers in the nation to begin their fall season.

“We received the challenge from Ohio State, who is the current NCAA national champion,” Irish coach Janusz Bednarski said. “We won a gold medal two years ago so champions will face off against each other at the beginning of the season.”

The Irish will compete in their new facilities for the very first time this weekend, as the Castellan Family Fencing Center was dedicated last Saturday. A gift from Patrick and Concetta Castellan, whose sons Matthew and Christopher both fenced at Notre Dame, the center includes a team room and a conference room, new offices, locker rooms and an armory.

“The new facility is a great place to organize matches because it is a bigger space and in addition, we have a full-size equipment room,” Bednarski said. “Our kids also have comfort in a team room and places like new locker rooms … It’s a great place to be.”

The tournament this weekend will consist of men’s and women’s team matches, in addition to men’s and women’s individual tournaments. While the team matches will be strictly between Notre Dame and Ohio State, the individual tournament includes fencers from all over the Midwest.

“[The individual competition is] a small tournament which is open to Midwest fencers, plus, of course, Ohio State fencers, who are very strong,” Bednarski said. “Altogether, about 75 fencers will be competing on the day so it will be interesting.”

Of all the Notre Dame fencers, Bednarski believes the returning Olympians – junior Courtney Hurley, senior Gerek Meinhardt and freshman Lee Kiefer – will perform the best this Saturday. Along with a many other Notre Dame fencers, these three competitors also competed in the North American Cup in St. Louis last weekend.

“I believe that our Olympians who return will be a strong part of our team,” Bednarski said. “The Olympics games ended in the late August and September did not include much fencing [for them]. So I understand that they are without form, but they are so good that even without special preparation, they should be a strong part of our team.”

Because Ohio State confirmed it would compete in the Notre Dame Invitational only one week ago, Notre Dame had little time to prepare and advertise this event. Despite the abbreviated preparation period, Bednarski hopes a large contingent of fans will come out to see the high-level of competition and new facility.

“I would like to have a full audience,” Bednarski said. “It’s open, free and before the [Notre Dame vs.] Oklahoma [football] game, which starts at 8 p.m. So I believe that we will have a couple of hundred people.”

The all-day event in the Castellan Family Fencing Center will begin at 8 a.m. with men’s individual tournament, followed by the Notre Dame men’s team match against Ohio State at 12:30 p.m. The invitational will then transition to the women’s individual tournament at 1:45 p.m., before it ends with the Irish women’s team match versus the Buckeyes at 5:30 p.m.

Contact Peter Steiner at [email protected]