March 27, 2010

By JEFF GOLDBERG

Special to NCAA.com

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. - St. John's remains on pace for a national championship. Viacheslav Zingerman remains on pace for history.

The Red Storm maintained its wire-to-wire lead Saturday in the team competition at the 2010 NCAA fencing championships, ending the first day of the men's competition - and third of four days overall - with 152 total victories.

Defending champion Penn State moved back into second place with 150, edging past Notre Dame (148). The national championship will be awarded Sunday at Harvard's Gordon Indoor Track Center after the final three preliminary rounds and the semifinal and final bouts in sabre, foil and epee, scheduled to begin at 2 p.m.

The epee championship promises to be the most dramatic as Zingerman, the three-time defending champion, attempts to become the first epee competitor to win four titles in a career and only the second in the history of the men's competition, joining New York University's Michael Lofton, who won four sabre titles from 1984-87.

Zingerman finished Saturday's first four rounds of 14 five-touch bouts with 10 victories, tying for second place with Columbia's Dwight Smith and Penn State's Nicholas Chinman, who won the 2009 foil championship.

St. John's' Marat Israelian led the epee competition with 12 victories. The top four competitors after Sunday's final three preliminary rounds - a total of nine bouts - will advance to the 15-touch semifinal bouts.

In sabre, Saturday's most competitive weapon, 2009 runner-up Daryl Homer of St. John's and 2009 semifinalist Daniel Bak of Penn State led with 13 victories. Homer was credited with the top position by virtue of a 37-31 lead over Bak in indicators (touches scored minus touches received).

Notre Dame's Avery Zuck was third with 12 victories, while teammate Barron Nydam, Harvard's Valentin Staller and Sean Buckley of St. John's tied for fourth with 10.

Defending champion Aleksander Ochocki was tied for seventh with nine victories.

In foil, its championship wide open with Chinman competing in epee, fellow Nittany Lion Peter Wilette led with 13 victories, followed by Yale's Nathaniel Botwinick with 12 victories, 2009 runner-up Gerek Meinhardt of Notre Dame with 11 and 2009 semifinalist Miles Chamley-Watson of Penn State with 10.

St. John's, which hasn't won a team championship since 2001, was the only school to post 30 victories or more in each of the three women's events Thursday and Friday. On Saturday, the Red Storm dominated the epee competition, combining for 21 victories in 28 bouts, six more than both Penn State and Notre Dame. St. John's also tallied the most victories in sabre with 23, one more than Penn State and Notre Dame.

But the Nittany Lions (23) and Fighting Irish (20) placed 1-2 in the foil competition while St. John's was a distant third with 16 victories, allowing the overall standings to remain tightly bunched. The top three schools were separated by four points after Thursday's opening women's round, two points after Friday's women's finals and four points Saturday.