PHILADELPHIA - Winning seasons, All-Americans and All-Ivy selections have become the norm over more than three decades for Penn men’s and women’s fencing programs. After 35 seasons building and overseeing that success as head coach, Hall of Famer David Micahnik has announced his retirement. He made the announcement at the fencing team banquet Sunday night, held at The Inn at Penn.
Most recently, Micahnik was inducted into the United States Fencing Association Hall of Fame as a member of its 2008 class. Micahnik also was honored as an inductee into the inaugural class of the Philadelphia Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in 1997, and into the second class of the University of Pennsylvania Athletic Hall of Fame in 1996.
“I have every confidence that Penn Fencing will continue to be among the nation’s elite programs,” said Micahnik. “The teamsare strong again going into the next season. With the continued strongsupport of the Athletic Department’sadministration, the new head coach will be able to maintain and build upon what has gone before, just as we have done from year to year. From one who bleeds Red and Blue, I say GO PENN!”
“Dave is truly a Penn treasure, and his contribution to Penn Athletics and the fencing programs is unmatched,” said Penn’s Director of Athletics, Steve Bilsky. “He has always been the consummate professional and a loyal member of the Penn coaching fraternity. I am pleased that he will be assisting us in our unprecedented development campaign, and we are sure the legions of fencing alumni and Dave’s friends join me in wishing Dave and his wife Phyllis a wonderful, well-deserved retirement.”
Success has marked the Micahnik era, as he has led Penn to winning records in each of his 34 years at the helm of both the men’s and women’s programs. His teams have consistently been among the nation’s elite, and the long-time head coach was rewarded by being named the 1997 U.S. Fencing Coaches Association (USFCA) Collegiate Coach of the Year.
Micahnik certainly ends his career on a high note, as the fencing teams enjoyed unprecedented success in the 2008-09 season. The men started the collection of trophies by capping an undefeated regular season with a win at the Ivy League Championships for the 16th time overall and the first time since 2003. That was followed by a bevy of wins at the IFA Championships including the program’s first-ever six-weapon title. The men’s team also won the three-weapon and sabre titles while sharing the epee with Harvard, while the women shared the sabre championship with Columbia. Individually, freshman Alex Simmons won gold in the foil, Andrew Bielen took silver in the sabre, while Vidur Kapur and Danielle Kamis were bronze medalists. At the NCAAs, nine athletes earned Penn a seventh-place finish, and four of them -- Jonathan Berkowsky, Ben Wieder, Dominika Franciszkowicz and Stephanie Wheeler -- earned All-America honors.
Under Micahnik’s tutelage, the men were 343-105 while the women had a 379-105 mark. Combined, the teams had an impressive record of 722-210.
Individual achievements have also been a hallmark of the Penn program. Thirty-two Quakers have competed internationally as members of United States national teams. The Quakers had their most recent Olympic success with former Penn fencers Cliff Bayer W’03, WG ‘03 and Tamir Bloom C’94 competing in the 1996 and 2000 Olympic Games. Micahnik has also produced 44 All-Americans (29 men and 15 women) and 90 All-Ivy selections (61 men and 29 women).
A 1959 Penn graduate, Micahnik was a first-team All-Ivy selection in epee as a senior under the instruction of the late Maestro Csiszar. He was the 1960 U.S. National Champion, and competed in the 1960, 1964 and 1968 Olympic Games. In addition to coaching in the collegiate ranks, Micahnik also has extensive international coaching experience. He has coached U.S. teams in four Under-20 World Championships, five World University Games, two World Championships, the 1985 and 1993 World Maccabiah Games, and the 1986 and 1988 Junior Pan-American Games.
Micahnik won a bronze and two silver medals in the Veteran 60 Men’s Epee at the Veterans’ National Championships. Micahnik currently serves on the Board of Directors for U.S. Fencing and in the Congress of U.S. Fencing.
Micahnik and his wife, Phyllis, reside in Cherry Hill, N.J. They have four sons: Bob Eskin, a commercial collection specialist in Vero Beach, Fla.; Hank Eskin, an alumnus of the University of Pennsylvania as an undergraduate from the College and an MBA graduate from The Wharton School; the late Aaron Micahnik, an alumnus of Richard Stockton College of N.J.; and Steven Micahnik, an alumnus of Yeshiva University and the Penn Graduate School of Education.
Despite his retirement, Micahnik has stated that his 2009 Junior Fencing Camp at Penn will go on as planned.