COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Behind the superb fencing of Brian Ro and Geoffrey Loss, the Columbia fencing team jumped from ninth place, where it had been for the first two days of the 2014 NCAA Championships, all the way up to seventh.
The Lions passed Temple and Stanford in taking over seventh, now with 86 victories (points). They trailed Penn State, the leader with 152 points; defending champion Princeton, with 136; and several other schools. Notre Dame is immediately above Columbia, sixth with 111 points.
While it tries to catch the Fighting Irish Sunday, the final day of the tournament, Columbia must hold off Penn, which moved up from 11th to ninth, Yale, still at 12th, and Sacred Heart, jumping from 17th to 13th.
The responsibility fell to the Lion men, who began their two days of competition in the combined NCAA Championship Saturday. And although Columbia's men's team was ranked first all season, the NCAA's are a different breed of cat. Women's standout Jackie Dubrovich, for instance, called it "the single hardest tournament I have ever been in".
Adam Mathieu wouldn't disagree. By the luck of the draw, he and his foil teammate, Harry Bergman, drew what Mathieu called "some of the best foil fencers in the world!"
Both he and Bergman struggled mightily at the onset of the tournament, with Mathieu slipping to last place at one point. They drew such opponents as Gerek Meinhardt of Notre Dame, ranked first in the world; Zain Shaito of Ohio State, an Olympian; David Willette of Penn State, a former NCAA champion; and Michael Dudey of Princeton.
They both lost to all of them, but Mathieu did manage a 5-2 win over Michele Caporizzi of St. John's. He moved up to 15th place by the day's end, with six victories in 15 bouts.
"I still don't feel great about my fencing," he admitted. "I beat people on my level, but I wasn't able to beat people above my level."
Both of Columbia's epeeists, Brian Ro and Jake Hoyle, fenced impressively.
Although he lost a couple of down-to-the-wire bouts, Ro won eleven of 15 overall, which tied him for second in the weapon with Alessio Santoro of Duke -- Ro was placed third due to two "indicators", numbers indicating margins of victory -- and Hoyle was 12th with an 8-7 record.
Brian recorded wins over Yevgeniy Karyuchenko of St. John's, the leader of the tournament; Harvard's Mike Raynis and Ace Eldeib; Paul Rivere of Stanford; and Joseph Rafidi of MIT, an old nemesis.
"I'm not going to let Rafidi beat me," Ro declared, before edging him, 5-4.
Hoyle, competing in his first NCAA, beat the Harvard pair; Clifford Fischler of Penn; Yasser Mahmoud of Penn State and a formidable trio in Stanford's Paul Rivere and Jake Harbour, and Brown's Simon Jones.
Men's sabre also excelled, with 16 wins in 30 bouts.
Will Spear, a veteran of NCAA competition, numbered two Ohio State fencers, Rhys Douglas and Fares Arfa, among his "victims", plus Kevin Hassett of Notre Dame and an excellent St. John's star, Roman Sydorenko. Spear lost four 5-4 bouts, to fencers from Princeton, St. John's, Notre Dame, and his teammate, Geoffrey Loss.
Loss, the Californian who has enjoyed an excellent season, was ready for his first NCAA championship -- or so he thought.
"Man, it's really hard!" he said of the demanding NCAA format. With bouts occurring so rapidly, he said the biggest challenge is if you lose one or two bouts.
"If you lose, you've got to let it go," Loss said. "If you drop a couple you don't want to lose, your job is to put them behind you."
Fatigue is a factor in top-flight sabre fencing. "Sabre has a lot of long attacks," Geoff noted. "You have to stay on full power all day."
Loss mustered enough power to win 10 of his 15 bouts, placing him seventh, but just two wins behind third. He defeated the aggressive Andrew Kelly of NYU by 5-4; a pair of Notre Damers; two from Princeton; Ferenc Valkai of St. John's; and Fares Arfa of Ohio State.
"I lost a couple of close ones, but I won a lot by 5-4 scores," he said.
His best win was anything but close, a 5-0 shutout of Princeton's Peter Pak.
Columbia concludes the 2014 NCAA Championships Sunday, March 23, with two more rounds, plus the medal rounds.
NCAA M&W Fencing Championships (Day Three)
Saturday, March 22, 2014
French Field House, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio
1. Penn State, 152 victories (points); 2. Princeton, 135; 3. Harvard, 123; 4. St. John's, 122; 5. Ohio State, 121; 6. Notre Dame, 111; 7. COLUMBIA, 86; 8. Stanford, 72; 9. Penn, 70; 10. Duke, 43; 11. Temple, 41; 12. Yale, 41; 13. Sacred Heart, 35; 14. Northwestern, 35; 15. Air Force, 34; 16. Brown, 33 -- 25 schools
Individual Standings (top ten and Columbia fencers, with victories):
1. Kaito Streets, Penn State, 14
2. Shaul Gordon, Penn, 13
3. Ferenc Valkai, St. John's, 12
4. Adrian Bak, Penn State, 11
5. Roman Sydorenko, St. John's, 11
6. Peter Pak, Princeton, 11
7. Geoffrey Loss, COLUMBIA, 10
8. Chris Monti, Duke, 10
9. Fares Arfa, Ohio State, 8
10. Eric Arzoian, Harvard, 7
13. Will Spear, COLUMBIA, 6
1. Alex Massialas, Stanford, 14
2. Gerek Meinhardt, Notre Dame, 14
3. Nobuo Bravo, Penn State, 14
4. David Willette, Penn State, 13
5. Zain Shaito, Ohio State, 10
6. Michael Dudey, Princeton, 10
7. Michele Caporizzi, St. John's, 9
8. Brian Kaneshige, Harvard, 8
9. Kristjan Archer, Notre Dame, 8
10. Michael Woo, Harvard, 8
15. Adam Mathieu, COLUMBIA, 6
19. Harry Bergman, COLUMBIA, 5
1. Yevgeniy Karyuchenko, St. John's, 12
2. Alessio Santoro, Duke, 11
3. Brian Ro, COLUMBIA, 11
4. Joseph Rafidi, MIT, 10
5. Jack Hudson, Princeton, 10
6. Mike Raynis, Harvard, 9
7. Cooper Schumacher, St. John's, 9
8. Garrett McGrath, Notre Dame, 8
9. Yasser Mahmoud, Penn State, 8
10. Kristian Boyadshiev, Ohio State, 8
12. Jake Hoyle, COLUMBIA, 8