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Fencing: DeSmet aims for second NCAA championship

John Sandberg | Thursday, February 7, 2013


Notre Dame junior Ariel DeSmet has seen the mountaintop. Now he’s trying to get back.

The foil from Troutdale, Ore., won the 2011 NCAA championship as a freshman and is now looking to reclaim his crown. 

DeSmet didn’t have the opportunity to repeat as a champion in 2012, as he was training for the Olympics. But DeSmet has not lost any of the enthusiasm or drive he had two years ago. When asked what keeps him hungry, DeSmet’s answer is as simple as it is powerful.

“Just love of the sport and love of my teammates,” DeSmet said. “One thing that makes fencing in college unique is that it’s for a team, whereas most of the time fencing is an individual sport. Just being part of an awesome team keeps me going.”

In addition to his 2011 championship in the foil, DeSmet was named a first team All-American as well as Notre Dame’s most valuable foil. DeSmet recorded a 28-1 regular season record before helping Notre Dame reach its eighth national title and winning his own individual championship.

“It was like a dream come true,” DeSmet said of the 2011 championship victory. “I hadn’t been fencing that much the year before, then kind of got recruited here and just busted my butt. It was a great end of the year and it made me want to [win] it again.”


Though DeSmet did not qualify to compete in last year’s Olympic Games, he said the experience of training with and against some of the elite fencers in the world was a memorable one.

“Once I started competing internationally it was definitely eye-opening as far as what I would need to do for that year [to improve],” DeSmet said. “I think it definitely put me on another level, just training for that.”

As for how the competition at the international level compares to that in the NCAA, DeSmet said there is a small pool of fencers at the very top of the NCAA who match up with the world’s best. The foil said he is motivated to stay in that same class of the best fencers in the country.

A distinguished prep career set DeSmet apart from the rest immediately. He won the Oregon state championship in each of his four years at Reynolds High School. With four state titles to his name, DeSmet had his choice of schools upon leaving high school. Notre Dame’s emphasis on the team is what ultimately led DeSmet to join the Irish.

“I had a lot of friends who came here, and it just seemed like an awesome team environment,” DeSmet said. “I visited some other schools and it was very competitive even within the team. Here it’s just like a big family.”

So far in the 2013 season DeSmet has been every bit as impressive as he was over the past two years. He began the year with a 13-2 mark in the St. John’s Invitational, including three wins against Ohio State, Harvard and Columbia. DeSmet then came back the next day with a perfect 15-0 outing at the NYU Invitational. 

It’s clear in the early part of this season DeSmet is as motivated as ever to once again claim his spot atop the mountain.

“I’m constantly trying to improve my fencing and my competitive skills,” DeSmet said. “Just constant improvement. … A lot of people would be happy with winning [an NCAA championship]. That was great but now it’s in the past and it’s time to work towards the future and continue to work hard this year.”

Contact John Sandberg at [email protected]