The Penn men's fencing team is coming off a 2003-04 season that saw two members earn All-America honors, four earn All-Ivy honors and, as a team, finished in a tie for second in the Ancient Eight. This year, almost all of Head Coach David Micahnik's weapons are back with a team goal of winning the program’s 12th Ivy League championship.
The Penn men finished ranked seventh in the nation at the close of last season and much of the depth and experience return to the Red and Blue. Nowhere is that more evident than at sabre. The entire sabre team returns in 2004-05 led by Mark Kindrachuk who finished last year with a 24-15 overall record, a 7-5 League mark and a 17th-place finish at the NCAA Championships. His 24 wins earned Kindrachuk a second-team All-Ivy selection.
With the entire sabre squad returning, the only issue that may arise for Micahnik is getting everyone ample time in competition.
"It is very remarkable to have everyone back on the sabre team but it is also very crowded. We will have a lot of opportunities for people to find their proper level and the cream will rise to the top. I am very happy with who we have and the strength in that squad," said Micahnik, who is entering his 31st year at the helm of the Red and Blue.
Joining Kindrachuk at sabre is classmate William Caulin who enjoyed a successful 2003-04 season with a mark of 21-15. Four other veterans make up the remainder of the sabre team. Jonathan Press was the only one of the quartet to see Ivy action, compiling a 4-5 record last season. Mike Haass, Emil Cappetta and Dave DiPaola all saw part time action as freshmen last season.
A pair of newcomers join the sabre team this season. Zachary Yeates joins the Red and Blue after earning a gold medal in the Division I-A men's sabre at this summer's nationals. Michael Park comes to Philadelphia by way of Scarsdale, N.Y. Micahnik has seen Park in action and knows his impact on the team's success is imminent.
"He came to campus looking lean and strong. I have seen him compete and he is very quick. He should help us quite a bit.
The men's foil team is Penn's most successful from a year ago as the three returnees amassed a 71-21 overall record and is comprised of a pair of All-Ivy honorees and the Quakers' lone returning All-American.
This season’s team captain, Stephen Gavalas, is coming off a career-high 24 wins in 2003-04, which earned him first-team All-Ivy honors. Joining the senior at foil is returning All-American Michael Galligan. Just a sophomore, Galligan powered his way to a 30-10 overall mark last season and finished ninth at NCAAs, earning 14 points for the Quakers at the national tournament. His win total was second only to the graduated Andy Radu who compiled a 33-16 mark en route to a career record of 115-21 (.839 winning percentage).
Rounding out the returning foil team is junior Brian Sohn who finished with a 17-4 mark after transferring to Penn from Boston College.
"Our foil team is in good hands," commented Micahnik. "There may be not as many student-athletes as we have on the sabre squad but the quality is definitely there."
If this trio was not enough, the Red and Blue have two newcomers that will look o make room for themselves on the foil squad in 2004-05. Ronald Berkowsky, a native of Sicklerville, N.J., was a member of the 2003 U.S. Junior National Team and, according to Micahnik, should challenge for a starting spot. Also joining the foil team this season is Corey Purcell from Fort Myers, Fla.
"His [Purcell's] athleticism is as good as anyone's on the team, if not the best. He is an incredible athlete," praised Micahnik. "His repertoire is very good and will get better with experience. He will definitely strengthen that squad."
Even though Purcell is slated for the foil team, Micahnik said he could be a wildcard for this year's epee squad, an experienced group that returns a senior and a pair of juniors. Freshman Darien Huang, of Vancouver, British Columbia, will also be a wild card between foil and epee according to where he best helps the team.
Chungxing Mah leads the team in experience coming into 2004-05. He and fellow upperclassman Michael Sanders make up two-thirds of the formidable epee returnees. Jon Gale is the third piece of the puzzle. He had success early in his collegiate career, winning eight of his first nine bouts en route to a 17-12 mark overall and an Ivy record of 6-2, capturing key victories in Ancient Eight competition.
"There is going to be a lot of competition for starting jobs on the epee team. Some of these guys are very good and that includes the two fencers coming to campus in the fall," Micahnik said.
Those newcomers are nothing short of a pair of Class "A" fencers. Noah Rohrer hails from Lexington, Mass., a member of the Boston Fencers Club and, of the two, is the more sizeable fencer.
"He [Rohrer] is big, strong and fast. We will work on his tactics this season but he is going to be wonderful," commented Micahnik. "I saw him at nationals and he is just beautiful to watch."
Alex Tozzo rounds out the Class of 2008 as well as the fencing team's epee squad. Tozzo is a technically savvy fencer and will, along with Rohrer, compete immediately for a starting position.
"It is nice to have two Class 'A' fencers coming in as freshmen to add depth but we are still going to need our returnees to be strong," added Micahnik.
“I am happy with our prospects but how it plays out during the season is still to come. I think we have good mix of new and old. We have depth, we have character, we have athleticism and I am looking forward to a really good season."
The looking forward’ part of any season is filled with optimism and hope for what is to come. For the 2004-05 Penn men's fencing team to be truly happy with this season, it desires a return to Ivy and IFA supremacy.