It’s here! It’s finally here! It’s the most wonderful time of the year. #MarchStabness is kicking off in full swing tomorrow, and we’re about to watch 144 of the best young fencers in the world head to South Bound, Indiana to compete at Notre Dame. In good fun and with zero confidence, I offer the following predictions this year. Good luck to all competing this year.
First, the format: the tournament is divided into six events: Men’s Epee, Men’s Foil, Men’s Sabre, Women’s Epee, Women’s Foil, and Women’s Sabre. Each event is comprised of 24 competitors who fence each other in five-touch, round robin format over the course of two days. At the conclusion of the round robin fencing, the school that has earned the most victories will be the NCAA team champions.
Once the round robin is complete, the top four fencers in each event compete in 15-touch single elimination bouts for the right to be crowned NCAA individual champion. The individual title is independent of the team championships.
Onto the predictions:
1. Eli Dershwitz (Harvard)
2. Andrew Maciewicz (PSU)
T3. Ben Natanzon (SJU)
T3. Ferenc Valkai (SJU)
Men’s sabre is shaping up to be the toughest men’s event in this year’s championships. Led by Olympian Eli Dershwitz, 2x NCAA Champion Andrew Maciewicz, and Ferenc Valkai (a multi-time finalist), the top of the field is stacked with experienced talent. Keep an eye out for Ben Natanzon, a sophomore St. John’s Fencer who replaces the recently graduated Roman Sydorenko as their B-strip. Natanzon has an explosive attack off the line, seemingly limitless stamina, and enough international success that I don’t think he’ll be phased in his first time competing in this round robin format.
Dark Horses: Jonah Shainberg, Karol Metryka
1. Alex Massialas (Stanford)
2. Maxmilien Chastanet (OSU)
T3. George Haglund (Harvard)
T3. John Vaiani (UPenn)
In Men’s Foil, we’re looking at what’s going to be another insanely competitive field. There’s that Alex Massialas kid you may have heard of. He’s got two titles under his belt already, and after taking a year off to train for Rio, he’s back with two Olympic medals around his neck and going for a third NCAA title. Have you ever wondered what the fencing equivalent would be of Mike Tyson boxing a toddler? It’s Massialas competing in this field. That’s an easy pick at the top for me. Where things get a little crazier is that top four. You’ve got last year’s champion in Chastanet, Axel Kiefer at Notre Dame who made the final last year, John Vaiani at UPenn (who missed last year’s championships with an illness), and a freshman in George Haglund who’s on a hot streak. Throw in a few dark horses like Sam Moelis (Columbia) and Willie Upbin (UPenn) and we’re looking at a field that I think will come down to indicators to make the top four.
Dark Horses: Willie Upbin, Sam Moelis
1. Lewis Weiss (OSU)
2. Wesley Johnson (Princeton)
T3. Justin Yoo (UPenn)
T3. Feihong Rodell (PSU)
Now for the only field I actually know what I’m talking about. If Men’s Sabre is the toughest field in this championships, I think Men’s Epee is the one where the margin of talent between the top and the bottom of this field is pretty narrow. By that, I mean that looking at the 24 competing, I could easily see about 14 of the group making the semi-final. For this field, I like the experience of OSU’s Lewis Weiss and Marc Antoine-Blais. Both were semi-finalists last year, with Weiss making it in 2015 as well. Then, you’ve got a strong epee contribution from St. John’s in former champion Yevgeniy Karyuchenko and Cooper Schumacher, both who could push for the top. UPenn’s Justin Yoo has thrived in five touch bouts, as has Princeton’s Wesley Johnson. Throw in cadet world champion Ari Simmons into the mix, Junior Olympic Champion Feihong “Clinton” Rodell, and Anton Piskovatskov , and we’re going to have ourselves a competitive slobberknocker.
Dark Horses: Ethan Grab, Isaac Shelanski
1. Adrienne Jarocki (Harvard)
2. Leanne Singleton-Comfort (Airforce)
T3. Sage Palmedo (Princeton)
T3. Mathilda Taharo (SJU)
Jarocki enters her senior year looking for a third title. Her consistency in the round robin format and another dominant performance at Ivy League championships makes her a strong favorite to win. Harvard Head Coach Peter Brand is also #bae. Leanne “Single Touch I Ain’t Giving You No Comfort When I Come Off the Line At You” Singleton-Comfort, a 2016 semi-finalist carried over her success into 2017, with a strong season both on the NCAA and international circuits. Palmedo is a consistent monster and should have no problem reaching the semi-finals. The fourth spot is a hard one to determine. Notre Dame’s Francesca Russo is a consistent performer in five touch bouts, and both St. John’s sabrists could get there too. PSU’s Kakhiani might be there as well.
Dark Horses: Sara Papp, Tara Hassett
1. Lee Kiefer (Notre Dame)
2. Eleanor Harvey (OSU)
T3. Margaret Lu (Columbia)
T3. Sabrina Massialas (Notre Dame)
Easily the toughest Women’s field, we’re looking at a group that includes World #1 ranked and Olympian Lee Kiefer (she’s got three NCAA individual titles to her name too), 2016 NCAA Champion and Olympian Eleanor Harvey, another beast Massialas in Sabrina, and of course, Columbia’s Michael Aufrichtig continues keeps his women’s foil recruiting pipeline absurdly deep with Iman Blow and Margaret Lu. Watching Kiefer win a 4th title would be a historical feat. The last time it was done? 1996 with Penn State’s Olga Kalinovskaya. I think she’ll do it.
Dark Horses: Nicole Vaiani, Danielle Ferdon
1. Kat Holmes (Princeton)
2. Amanda Sirico (Notre Dame)
T3. Anna Van Brumen (Princeton)
T3. Jessie Radanovich (PSU)
Princeton’s Women’s Epee squad is NCAA Fencing’s equivalent of playing with Bo Jackson in Tecmobowl. It’s a God-Mode cheat in a video game, led by Olympian Kat Holmes and Anna Van Brummen. That’s just their A and B strips. Their C strip (not selected to go to championships this year) was none other than 2016 NCAA Silver Medalist Charlene Liu. That’s as good as a squad gets on paper. Holmes is yet to capture an elusive NCAA title, but with the level of competition she’s been engaged with and the momentum she has coming out of Ivy’s (an absurd 18-0), this is Kat’s year. In the mix is senior Jessie Radanovich, last year’s NCAA champion, who is one of the most consistent five touch bout performers I’ve seen at the collegiate level. I think she’ll be in the semi-finals once again. Alright, here comes my bias, because, like, I actually have a DC Fencers Club tattoo (not kidding): Redshirt freshman Amanda Sirico is probably going to take some heads off. She’s got the perfect fencing style to contend in this format. Fast, fluid, never lacking in energy, and has tunnel vision focus in the tournaments that matter, able to move on from a loss as fast as she does a victory.
Dark Horses: Renee Bichette, Victoria Wines
- Ohio State
- Notre Dame