Quakers Remain Among Nation's Elite in 2006

For Penn fencing, the goal each year is to win the Ivy League – anything less could be deemed an unsuccessful season. Although the 2005-06 squad did not reach that goal, they still had an impressive season and hit their stride in the postseason. Despite finishing with a 7-6 overall record and 2-3 in the Ancinet Eight, the Quakers had one of the best foil teams in the nation and saw the development of many freshmen into important roles.

Penn started the season at the Temple Open on Nov. 5. The Quakers had an impressive showing, placing six fencers in the top-10 in their respective weapons. None was more impressive than freshman Ben Wieder, who took the top spot in the epee. Fellow rookies Sam Monk, Matthew Kolasa and Hal Emmer had successful collegiate debuts. Sophomore Ron Berkowsky placed first in the foil and weaponmate Michael Galligan finished in third, setting the tone for what would be the strength for the Red and Blue in 2006.

The Quakers took a break for the remainder of the fall semester and got started up in the winter hosting the Philadelphia Invitational Multi-Meet at Hutchinson Gym on Jan. 22. Penn went 3-2 on the day beating Drew, Johns Hopkins and Duke. Berkowsky led the way going a perfect 15-0.

In the Red and Blue’s victories over Drew and Johns Hopkins, Kolasa, Galligan and Berkowsky combined for nine wins in each bout. Alex Tozzo and Wieder solidified the epee against Hopkins, winning two bouts each. Wieder would outdo his effort against Duke by going 3-0 and giving Penn the 15-12 victory.

The following weekend Penn traveled to Happy Valley to take part in the Penn State Invitational. The Quakers went 2-1 headlined by key win over No. 6 St. John’s. In Penn’s 14-13 victory over the Red Storm, the biggest surprise was the emergence of Corey Purcell as a complement to the one-two punch of Berkowsky and Galligan in the foil. Purcell went 2-0 in the bout, helping the foil team to seven victories in the win. The sophomore did not stop there, going 6-0 in bouts against Penn State and Haverford.

In Penn’s victory over Haverford, it was the sabre that led the charge by a score of 8-1. Kolasa and Zachary Yeates combined to go 6-0 and Dave Dipaola went 2-1. In the epee, Wieder and Tozzo picked up three wins apiece.

After two pre-season meets, the Quakers embarked on the Ivy League season for the first two Sundays in February. The Red and Blue traveled to Ithaca, N.Y. on Feb. 5 to take part in the Ivy Championship North, in the new league format. Penn had a tough day, going 1-2 with loses to Princeton and Columbia. The Quakers’ lone win came in a 19-8 decision against Yale.

The Quakers took the epee 6-3, led by Tozzo’s three wins. In the foil, Berkowsky and Purcell combined for six of Penn’s eight wins. The Red and Blue won the saber 5-4. Emmer and Kolasa each had two wins.

The following Sunday, Penn first had to battle Mother Nature and her 29 inches of snow while traveling to Columbia. The Red and Blue went 1-1, defeating Brown 23-4 and losing to eventual national champion Harvard 16-11. Penn beat the Bears handily in the foil and the saber. Freshman Anders Eiremo led the saber with three wins. Tozzo and Wieder both went 3-0 to take the epee 7-2.

Despite falling to the Crimson in the saber and the epee, the foil team picked up a 7-2 victory. Berkowsky led the way with three wins.

Penn finished its Ancient Eight slate in fourth place with a 2-3 record and set its sights on the postseason to prove they were still among the nation’s elite.

The Quakers first chance to do so came when they hosted the 112th Intercollegiate Fencing Association (IFA) Championships on Feb. 25. The Red and Blue combined for 63 total victories in the 3-Weapon Team Competition which put them in second place behind Harvard’s 71 victories.

Berkowsky took the top spot in the A-Division of the team competition with 10 victories. Galligan finished fourth and Purcell placed second. Together, they recorded 25 victories and were rewarded with the Little Iron Man trophy for placing first.

Penn was equally as successful in the individual weapons competition. Berkowsky continued to dominate his opponents; he won the Gold Medal in the foil, defeating Columbia’s Luka Lazic in the final, 15-4. Wieder lost to Princeton’s Tommi Hurme in the final of the epee, 15-4, but was awarded the Silver Medal. In the saber, Kolasa finished fourth.

After a successful run at the IFA Championships, the Red and Blue traveled to Durham, N.C. for the NCAA Mid-Atlantic/South Regional at Duke on March 5. Penn once again had a strong showing among the top teams in the country with five top-10 finishes.

Berkowsky-- who was the No1 seed in the foil --finished third, which was the Quakers’ highest finish.Weaponmates Galligan and Purcellfinished seventh and10th, respectively.

Wieder had the Red and Blue’s top finish in the epee. He took sixth, while Samuel Monk took 17th, Tozzo placed 28th, and Noah Rohrer finished 32nd.

In the saber, Kolasa was Penn’s only competitior. He finished fifth.

With the success they had at the regional, Galligan, Berkowsky and Kolasa qualified for the NCAA Championships in Houston. The trio combined for 39 victories and helped Penn to a ninth-place finish.

Berkowsky had the Quakers’ highest finish, taking fourth in the foil with 19 victories. He lost to eventual champion Boaz Ellis of Ohio State in the semi final. In the bronze medal match, Berkowsky lost to Columbia’s Scott Sugimoto, who also dealt the sophomore his only loss during the regular season.

Also in the foil, Galligan ended the two-day event with 12 victories. He sat in 17th place after Saturday and worked his way through the competition on day two to ninth place.

Kolasa picked up four victories on the second day to move into 17th place in the saber. He totaled eight victories over two days.

For their efforts, Berkowsky and Galligan earned All-America status. With a fourth-place finish, Berkowsky garnered first-team for the second consecutive season. Galligan earned his third honorable mention honor. The awards did not stop there for Berkowsky; he was named Outstanding Men’s Foil Athlete of the Year, voted on by his peers.

In addition to All-America, Berkowsky, Galligan and Purcell all were named All-Ivy. Berkowsky made first-team after making second-team last season. Galligan was named second-team for the third-consecutive season, and Purcell joined Galligan on second-team.

After coming on strong down the stretch, the Quakers finished ninth in the USFCA coaches poll, proving that they are still among the nation’s elite fencing programs.

Next season should have the potential to be bigger and brighter for the Red and Blue. Losing no one to graduation and returning one of the top foil teams in the country, 2007 should be another great year for this storied program.