SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS -- Although two Columbia fencers missed first team All-America by the barest of margins, the Lions came away from the men's section of the 2013 NCAA Championships with two second team All-Americas, and one third team selection. Columbia retained the ninth spot in the team standings.
For the second straight season, sophomore Will Spear finished fifth in men's sabre, gaining second team All-America both times. Fellow soph sabrist Michael Josephs earned third team All-America once again, improving from 11th to 10th this season. And freshman Brian Ro joined Spear on second team All-America, as he placed sixth in men's epee.
Both Spear and Ro, however, had the brass ring of a medal and first team All-America nearly within their grasp. Spear won five of eight bouts on the final day, but missed by one victory of placing in the top four (only the top four get to fence for medals).
His 15 victories, in 23 bouts, were just one behind Shaul Gordon of Penn State, who went 16-7. Gordon joined a top three of Daryl Homer, St. John's, 22 wins; Adrian Bak, Penn State, 19; and Michael Mills, Penn, who won 17.
Gordon upset Homer, a perennial NCAA champion, to reach the finals, where he lost to Mills for the title.
Sabre is the most subjective of the weapons, and often is decided by arguable official's calls. Spear, as several observers noted, was often hurt by officials' calls during Friday's fencing.
"Will lost a couple of bouts he shouldn't have lost," head coach Michael Aufrichtig said. "But knowing Will, I think those losses hurt him for what it cost his team, rather than for himself."
Spear had impressive victories over Penn All-America Evan Prochniak, 5-2; Kevin Hassett of Notre Dame, 5-3, rallying from a 3-3 tie with two key touches; and Sam Austin of North Carolina, 5-0. But he fell to Michael Mills, 5-2, and was hurt in the standings by an upset loss to Nikita Silantyev of Wayne State, 5-2; Silantyev won only two other bouts in the tournament.
Michael Josephs, on the other hand, defeated Mills, the future champion, 5-4; he had to wait for the video review, an international fixture used for the first time at this NCAA. Two officials viewed a replay of the touch before awarding it to Josephs.
Josephs took it to the North Carolina Tar Heels, beating Sam Austin, 5-3, after trailing 4-3 late in the bout, and his teammate, Jackson Bryant-Comstock, 5-4. He also topped John Hallsten of Notre Dame, 5-1.
After going 7-8 the first day, Josephs won five of eight Friday, finishing 12-11, as his parents, who made the long trek from their home in Maryland, cheered him on. "Michael had a very good day," Aufrichtig noted.
Ro finished the Day One fencing in second place, his plus 21 indicators putting him ahead of four other 10-victory fencers, including defending NCAA champion Jonathan Yergler of Princeton. But with just three victories separating the first through 10th epeeists, Ro's perch was precarious, indeed.
However, with only one round to go Saturday, Ro was in first place. He needed to stay there, or in the next three places, to emulate 2012 epee finalist Alen Hadzic and move into the four-person medal round, a huge achievement for a freshman.
Unfortunately, it was not to be. Ro lost three of those final four bouts, falling to sixth place. With all of those plus indicators -- he finished with plus 21, tied for second among all men's epeeists -- just two more victories would have clinched the spot for Ro.
But he fell to big Kelly McGuire of Brown, 5-2, and Adam Watson of St. John's, 5-3. Ro rallied, beating Peter Cohen of Yale, 5-1, and led Joseph Rafidi of MIT, 2-1. Rafidi, however, then scored the next four touches for a crushing 5-2 loss.
Ro's fellow epeeist, Justin Wan, won his first bout of Friday's fencing, but lost the final seven to finish in 22nd place with a 6-17 record, while the Lions' lone foil fencer, freshman Adam Mathieu, placed 16th with a 9-14 mark.
The women's section of the NCAA Championships begins Saturday morning at Freeman Coliseum. Columbia will send six athletes, the maximum allowed, into the fray.
They include seniors Essane and Loweye Diedro in sabre; senior D'Meca Homer and freshman Jackie Dubrovich in foil; and sophomore Diana Tsinis and Natalie Gegan in epee.
The men's results:
NCAA M&W Fencing Championships (Day Two)
Friday, March 22, 20123
Freeman Coliseum, San Antonio, Texas
1. Penn State, 94 points (wins); 2. Princeton, 83; 3. Notre Dame, 77; 4. Harvard, 75;
5. Ohio State, 70; 6. Penn, 66; 7. St. John's, 65; 8. Stanford, 65; 9. COLUMBIA, 56;
10. Brown, 23; 11. Yale, 22; 12. North Carolina, 20; 13. Sacred Heart, 19; 14. NYU, 18; 15. Brandeis, 16; 16. Duke, 15; 17. MIT, 13; 18. UC San Diego, 10; 19. Wayne State, 10; 20. Air Force, 9; 21. Drew, 3
Individual Standings (leaders and Columbia fencers, with victories)
1. Daryl Homer, St. John's, 22 - bronze
2. Adrian Bak, Penn State, 19 - bronze
3. Michael Mills, Penn, 17 - gold
4. Shaul Gordon, Notre Dame, 16 - silver
5. Will Spear, COLUMBIA, 15
6. Max Stearns, Ohio State, 15
7. Robert Stone, Princeton, 15
8. Evan Prochniak, Penn, 14
9. Kevin Hassett, Notre Dame, 13
10. Michael Josephs, COLUMBIA, 12
11. Hugh O'Cinneide, Yale, 12
Semifinals: Gordon def. Homer, 15-14; Mills def. Bak, 15-14
Championship Final: Mills def. Gordon, 15-9
1. Gerek Mainhardt, Notre Dame, 22 - bronze
2. Miles Chamley-Watson, Penn State, 19 - bronze
3. David Willette, Penn State, 18 - silver
4. Alex Massialas, Stanford, 18 - gold
5. Michael Dudey, Princeton, 18
6. Zain Shaito, Ohio State, 15
7. Brian Kaneshige, Harvard, 15
8. Michael Woo, Harvard, 14
9. Michele Caporizzi, St. John's, 14
10. Ariel DeSmet, Notre Dame, 13
16. Adam Mathieu, COLUMBIA, 9
Semifinals: Massialas def. Mainhardt, 15-14; Willette def. Chamley-Watson, 15-12
Championship Final: Massialas def. Willette, 15-10
1. Peregrine Badger, Harvard, 17 - bronze
2. Jonathan Yergler, Princeton, 15 - silver
3. Edward Kelley, Princeton, 16 - bronze
4. Marco Canevari, Ohio State, 15 - gold
5. Dylan Nollner, Duke, 15
6. Brian Ro, COLUMBIA, 14
7. Daniel Tafoya, Ohio State, 14
8. Ayyub Ibrahim, Penn, 14
9. Joseph Rafidi, MIT, 13
10. Kelly McGuire, Brown, 13
11. Mike Raynis, Harvard, 13
22. Justin Wan, COLUMBIA, 6
Semifinals: Canevari def. Badger, 11-9; Yergler def. Kelley, 15-13
Championship Final: Canevari def. Yergler, 15-9