NEW YORK – Over the next few weeks, GoColumbiaLions.com will take a look at the teams, student-athletes, coaches and staff members set to be inducted in the Columbia University Athletics Hall of Fame this October. Our next installment features the most decorated fencer in Columbia history, Bruce Soriano ’72CC and Lions’ legendary fencing coach George Kolombatovich.
John Baumann ’08
Kathy Lavold ’03BC
Al Barabas ’36CC
Emily Jacobson ’08CC & Daria Schneider ’10CC
The 1996 Football Team
1929 Heavyweight Rowing
Liz Cheung-Gaffney ’98CC
Ted Kiendl 1911CC & John Howard Johnson ’22CC
Milena Kachar ’07CC
2005 Women’s Cross Country Team
Jackie Adelflo ’06SEAS
Howard Endelman ’87CC & The 1986 Men’s Tennis Team
Len Renery ’71CC and Amr Aly ’85CC
Bruce Soriano ’72CC
In just three years on the fencing strip at Columbia, Bruce Soriano not only made his mark on the Lions’ fencing program, but on the national stage.
The sabre fencer became the only man to ever win the NCAA individual championship in both his sophomore and junior years when he accomplished the feat in 1971. A year later, he made history again he captured the national championship crown for the third straight season to become the first collegiate fencer to win three NCAA individual crowns. The three-peat accomplishment is also a first for Columbia, as Soriano remains the lone Lion to boast three individual NCAA Championship titles.
Soriano’s individual fencing resume also boasts back-to-back individual IFA Championships (1970, 1971).
The three-time first-team All-American was a key component to Columbia’s 1971 NCAA Championship and guided the Lions to an IFA Team Championship a year later. A three-time first-team All-Ivy League selection, Soriano led Columbia to three consecutive Ancient Eight titles (1970, 1971, 1972).
George Kolombatovich led Columbia’s men’s and women’s fencing programs to their most successful era in school history. In 1979, he joined the Lion’s staff as the sixth coach in the 116-year history of Columbia fencing and the first to lead the women’s squad. In 32 seasons at the helm of the Lions, Kolmobatovich compiled a 281-86 (.766) overall record on the men’s side and owned a 298-78 (.793) overall record on the women’s side.
Fewer than 10 years after his arrival, Kolombatovich delivered Columbia its first NCAA men’s title in sixteen years in 1987 and followed that with consecutive crowns in 1988 and 1989. After the championships were combined, Kolombatovich and the Lions finished as runner-ups in 1990 and 1991 before bringing the title back to Morningside Heights in 1992 and 1993.
During Kolombatovich’s tenure, the Lions captured eight IFA Team Championships, which is half of Columbia’s total 16, six NCAA Squad Championships, 10 Northeast Regional crowns and a combined 23 Ivy League Championships – 15 by the men and eight by the women. A native New Yorker, he coached Olympians, 17 individual NCAA Champions, six NCAA Fencers of the Year, 30 IFA Individual Champions, 152 All-Americans and 158 All-Ivy League honorees.
The well-known figure in national and international fencing, Kolombatovich coached the United States in six Junior World Championships and seven Junior Pan American Championships.A Fédération Internationale d’Escrime (FIE) A-rated referee, Kolombatovich served two terms in the FIE Congress and published the handbook for fencing referees. He served as referee at the 1984, 1992 and 1996 Olympic Games as well as three Pan American Games and three World Championships.