NOTRE DAME, Ind. – As the final day of competition wrapped up at the NCAA Midwest Regional Championship on Sunday at the Castellan Family Fencing Center, the No. 2 Notre Dame’s men’s team was all smiles. After several highly anticipated bouts, the Irish placed six fencers in the top three of their respective events, with John Hallsten, Jason Choy and Kevin Hassett placing first through third, respectively, in the sabre event.
After both Hallsten and Choy finished their day with identical 12-1 records, the duo faced each other in a fence-off to secure the sabre championship, with Hallsten narrowly out-touching Choy 5-4. Hassett posted a 10-3 mark with a +29 indicator to complete the third-place result. Fencing for the last time at Notre Dame, senior Will McGough finished with a 6-7 record to place seventh in the event.
Men’s foil proved to be the biggest spectator draw of the day with the past three NCAA Individual Champions — Gerek Meinhardt (ND, ’10), Ariel DeSmet (ND, ‘11) and Zain Shaito (OSU, ’12) — participating. Meinhardt and DeSmet pulled away from the field, as the Irish pairing finished with identical records of 12-1 to force a fence-off for the title. Meinhardt narrowly defeated DeSmet 5-3 after losing to him 5-4 in the first bout of pool play to complete the win. Both Irish combatants defeated Shaito with scores of 5-3 and 5-4, respectively. Notre Dame’s Grant Hodges and Nick Kubik both notched 7-6 marks in pool play, but Hodges finished the day seventh with a +12 indicator, whereas Kubik placed ninth with a +8 indicator.
The longest event of the day came in the 20-man epee field. No. 6 Ohio State’s Marco Canevari finished the day with only two losses and a +45 indicator to claim the outright championship. One of his two losses, however, came at the hands of Notre Dame’s Michael Rossi, helping solidify Rossi’s third-place finish (15-4, +38 indicator). Garret McGrath claimed fifth for the Irish in the category, finishing one win behind Rossi at 14-5 and a +23 indicator. After a sluggish start, the freshman went on a five-bout winning streak, including a 5-3 win against runner-up Daniel Tafoya of Ohio State. James Kaull also went 14-5 but his +22 indicator placed him sixth. Senior Jack Piasio (12-7, +6 indicator) wrapped up the Irish entrants, finishing in eighth place.
Of the five former Midwest Regional champions present at Sunday’s competition, only Meinhardt won in his weapon category. The others — DeSmet, Shaito, Max Stearns (sabre, Ohio State), Kristian Boyadzhiev (epee, Ohio State) — will anxiously await Tuesday to find out if they have qualified for a chance to compete at the 2013 NCAA Championships. Notre Dame is seeking to send the maximum of 12 fencers to this year’s championships, which will be held March 21-24 in San Antonio, Texas.
On Day 1 of the competition, the No. 1 Notre Dame women’s fencing team turned in a dominant performance, securing four top-three finishes including the top two spots in foil competition.
In a field featuring 20 foilists, Notre Dame’s Lee Kiefer and Madison Zeiss posted a combined record of 35-3 on the day to finish 1-2. Kiefer, who finished 18-1 with a +65 indicator, suffered her lone setback of the day against Mona Shaito of No. 4 Ohio State (5-3), while posting seven total 5-0 shutouts. Zeiss, meanwhile, finished 17-2 with a +46 indicator in earning her runner-up result. Her only losses came at the hands of teammates, as she fell 5-0 to Kiefer and 5-1 to Grace Hartman.
At the opposite end of the fencing center, Courtney Hurley (14-1, +37 indicator) placed ahead of Buckeye epeeist Caroline Piasecka to claim first in the women’s epee event. Irish teammates Ewa Nelip and Ashley Severson both posted records of 11-4, but Nelip placed fourth with a +27 indicator, while Severson finished fifth with a +22 indicator.
Junior Lian Osier paced the sabre squad, earning a runner-up finish for the Irish after concluding with a 13-2 record and a +38 indicator. Ohio State’s Celina Merza posted a near-perfect 14-1 (+42 indicator) record to claim the outright pool victory.
Freshman Johanna Thill grabbed fifth place with an 11-4 mark, edging out senior teammate Abigail Nichols (10-5, +18 indicator). Fellow senior Kathryn Palazzoto also concluded her Irish fencing career with a 7-8 mark.