Sept. 26, 2013
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – University of Notre Dame fencing associate head coach Gia Kvaratskhelia (pronounced GEE-uh CLAW-duh-SKELL-ee-uh) recently was named the Midwest Fencing Conference (MFC) Varsity Coach of the Year, as announced by Conference commissioner Todd Dressell on Tuesday, Sept. 24. It marks the first time during Kvaratskhelia’s seven-year career on the Fighting Irish staff that he has earned the award.
The honor for the foil specialist coach is based on the success of the 2012-13 season for both the men’s and women’s programs. Notre Dame finished second at the ’13 NCAA Fencing Championships, its 20th consecutive top-three finish at the NCAAs. Freshman Lee Kiefer claimed the women’s foil title and boasted a 22-1 record in pool play, with her sole loss coming against older sister Alex, who is a member of the Harvard fencing team.
In addition to Kiefer’s title, senior men’s foilist Gerek Meinhardt also went 22-1 in the round robin portion of the NCAA championships and finished tied for third with Olympic teammate Miles Chamley-Watson from Penn State in the sudden death bouts. Meinhardt was the 2010 men’s foil champion, and finished as runner-up in 2009 as a freshman. Meinhardt also fenced in both the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, and in 2012 stepped in during the team competition to help secure the Americans’ fourth-place finish in London, England.
Kvaratskhelia has found immense success in his time with the Fighting Irish, strengthening and molding 25 NCAA All-Americans since joining the team in 2007 as an assistant. Since 2010, four of his foilists have won the NCAA weapon title, with Kiefer being the most recent. Says Kvaratskhelia on what the award means to him and the program, “I give all the credit to our athletes and their devotion to excellence. They are the reason that the coaches get recognition”.
As Notre Dame prepares for its final year in the Midwestern Fencing Conference, Kvaratskhelia is looking forward to the upcoming 2013-14 campaign. “Our standard of success is always the highest; we strive to win the conference championships every year, and before we move on to the Atlantic Coast Conference we would love to go out on top one more time.”
Nominations for award winners are submitted to the conference commissioner, and then voted on by coaches within the MFC.