Fencing Teams Begin National Championships Thursday

PHILADELPHIA - The University of Pennsylvania men's and women's fencing teams will send nine competitors to San Antonio for the NCAA Combined Men's and Women's Fencing Championships beginning Thursday at the Freeman Coliseum.

The full complement of six qualifiers emerged on the men's side, with veterans such as three-time All-American senior Evan Prochniak balanced by freshmen Leland Bernstein, Adam Elkassas and Ayyub Ibrahim, who will be making their first career appearances on the national stage. Michael Mills and Clifford Fishler are junior who are making a third career appearance at the meet.

On the women's side, last year's national runner-up in foil, Luona Wang, is back looking to make a repeat appearance in the final. Despite the fantastic year from Penn's foil team, Wang is the lone representative as Sarah Parmacek missed out in large part because of a reduced strength indicator that would have been boosted if the Ivy League Round-Robins hadn't been postponed due to a winter storm in February. In epee, senior Amrit Bhinder will make her fourth and final showing at the Championships, where she will be joined by junior Gabby Foor.

Each weapon has 24 entrants into the competition and the fencers will compete in a series of 23 five-touch bouts over two days. The top four finishers in each weapon will advance to a pair of 15-touch semifinals, with a 15-touch final to follow. The four semifinalists will be named First-Team All-Americans, with places five through eight given Second Team honors, and places nine through 12 earning Honorable Mention.

Each individual win will count as a point toward the final team total for the four days. With nine fencers competing, Penn has the ninth-most entrants of any school at the Championships and looks to be in good shape for a top 10 finish nationally. The men's team will begin competition on Thursday and Friday (March 21-22), with the women to pick things up on Saturday and Sunday (March 23-24). Both the men's championship rounds (Friday) and women's championship rounds (Sunday) will be broadcast live on ESPN3.com.