Penn State Edges Notre Dame 149-147 for NCAA Fencing Title
March 22, 1998
NOTRE DAME, Ind. -- Three-time defending NCAA men's and women's fencing champion Penn State used a strong performance by its men's foil squad and a dramatic performance from epeeist Tom Peng to edge host Notre Dame by two wins for its fourth straight NCAA fencing championship at the Angela Athletic Facility in Notre Dame, Ind. Entering the final round tied with the Irish with 139 points each, the Nittany Lions went 6-0 in men's foil and Peng trailed in all three of his bouts before winning each bout 5-4 for to clinch the win in his last bout.
Yale's Ayo Griffin won the men's foil crown to become that school's first-ever NCAA fencing champion since the NCAA fencing championships began in 1941. St. John's George Hentea, runner up a year ago, took home the trophy in the men's epee competition.
Peng rallied for a 5-4 win over Princeton's Marco Acerra after trailing 4-2 and later in the round won a back-and-forth 5-4 bout over Cal State Fullerton's Jesse Carlson. Peng then rallied from 4-3 down to clinch the championship for Penn State with a 5-4 win over Princeton's Jason Burrell. Penn State's men's foil team of Gang Lu and David Lidow, which lost six bouts in the first two rounds on Sunday to help the Irish tie the score entering the final round, went a perfect 6-0 in the final round of the competition to help the Nittany Lions to the title.
Irish epeeists Carl Jackson and Brian Stone kept the Irish close in the final round. The two combined for a perfect 6-0 mark in the final round, including two wins each over Harvard's former NCAA men's epee champion Mike Gattnar and Rutgers' John Gringeri, who both entered the final round among the top four in the men's epee competition.
The championship is the fourth straight for Penn State, dating back to a second-place finish to Notre Dame in the 1994 NCAA championships. Penn State becomes the first school to win four straight NCAA titles since Wayne State won four consecutive titles from 1982-85. Notre Dame finished second to Penn State for the third straight year. Stanford finished third to Penn State and Notre Dame for the second consecutive year.
The championship consisted of 120 fencers in five weapons with teams receiving one point for each win in the 24 fencer round-robin competition in each weapon. The top four fencers in each weapon advance to the championship semifinal and final where the winner in each weapon will be determined. Wins in this portion of the competition do not count toward team standings. Notre Dame led after each of the first three days.
Fourth Day Notes
- Penn State moved into first place by two point after the sixth round thanks to a 4-0 record against Notre Dame in men's epee. Tom Peng beat Brian Stone 5-4 and Brendan Baby beat Carl Jackson 5-4. Baby then rallied from a 4-2 hole to beat Stone 5-4. Peng closed our the sweep with a 5-1 win over Jackson. The Nittany Lions went 3-3 in men's foil while the Irish were 2-4.
- Notre Dame and Penn State entered the final round of competition tied at 139 wins each through 218 bouts after seven rounds of men's epee and foil. Stone and Jackson rebounded to go a combined 5-1 in round seven while the Lions were 2-4 in epee. Notre Dame went 2-4 in men's foil while Penn State was 3-3 in men's foil in round seven.
- Ten men's epeeists entered the final round in contention for the championship round with Harvard's Mike Gattnar and St. John's Alex Roytblat each in first with 15 wins. Four were tied with 14 wins and two with 13.
- Yale's Ayo Griffin and Penn's defending champion Cliff Bayer entered the final round with 18 wins each in men's foil with Columbia's Dan Kellner in third with 17 wins. Columbia's Jed Dupree and Penn's Yaron Roth each had 16 wins in a battle for the fourth spot in the championship round.
- Peng rallied for a 5-4 win over Princeton's Marco Acerra after trailing 4-2 and later in the round won a tight 5-4 bout over Cal State Fullerton's Jesse Carlson. Peng then rallied from 4-3 down to clinch the championship for Penn State with a 5-4 win over Princeton's Jason Burrell.
- Penn State's men's foil team of Gang Lu and David Lidow, which lost six bouts in the first two rounds on Sunday, went a perfect 6-0 in the final round of the competition to help the Nittany Lions to the title. David Lidow fell behind 3-1 to St. John's Jesse Mones before winning 5-3 and later won a 5-4 bout over St. John's Jon Tiomkin.
- Jackson and Stone also were a perfect 6-0 in the final round, including two wins each over Gattnar and Rutgers' John Gringeri, who both entered the final round among the top four but finished the competition tied for fifth.
- The two-point margin of victory for Penn State was the smallest since the Lions beat Columbia-Barnard 36-35 to win the 1990 NCAA title.
- The championship is the fourth straight for Penn State, dating back to a second-place finish to Notre Dame in the 1994 NCAA championships. Penn State becomes the first school to win four straight NCAA titles since Wayne State won four consecutive titles from 1982-85.
- Notre Dame finishes second to Penn State for the third straight year. Stanford finishes third to Penn State and Notre Dame for the second consecutive year.
- Both top-seed versus fourth-seed in the men's foil and men's epee semifinal involved teammates. Roth beat Bayer in men's foil 15-14 and St. John's George Hentea beat Roytblat in men's epee 15-14. Stanford's Eric Tribbett beat Stone 15-10 in the other epee semifinal and Yale's Ayo Griffin beat Kellner 15-12 in the other men's foil semifinal.
- Hentea, who finished second at the 1997 NCAA championships, won the men's epee title with a 15-10 win over Tribbett. Roytblat beat Stone 15-12 for third place.
- Griffin beat Roth 15-13 for the men's foil title to become Yale's first-ever NCAA fencing champion since the NCAA fencing championships began in 1941. Bayer, the defending champion, finished third.
Tom Peng, Penn State
-won three 5-4 bouts in final round to clinch championship for Penn State
"I knew that we were tied entering the final round and that our foil team would do well and their foil team could do damage. Notre Dame's epee team went undefeated which was incredible but I just tried to block everything out and focus on the last three bouts. I wanted to do it for myself and do the best I could."
On falling behind in his last three bouts:
"I tried to keep focused and not get down on myself when I was losing. I knew that if I stay focused, I could get back in it."
Ayo Griffin, Yale 1998 NCAA Men's Foil Champion
"In a long tournament like this you are expected to fence people of all different caliber so to come out on top like this is a great feeling."
"I think staying focused throughout the tournament was the key for me this weekend. I was very pleased with the way I fenced and I beat a lot of people I wasn't supposed to beat."
On the championship bout:
"It was tight all the way, but I was able to maintain my focus at the end and comeback and win. It's a wonderful feeling."
George Hentea, St. John's 1998 NCAA Men's Epee Champion
On the championship bout:
"We both came out ready to fence, I was very focused after my semifinal bout."
Approach to fencing Eric Tribbett:
"My reach was a big factor. I was able to get at his tempo and control the bout. I have a much longer reach and the distance was the biggest aspect of the bout. I kept him away from me and I controlled the distance.
On his fencing in the NCAA championships:
"I came here and wanted to fence really well, but yesterday, after the first loss it was like a snowball effect. Today I knew if I didn't fence well enough, I was going to lose anyway, so I just wanted to fence as best as I can."