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Botwinick, Holbrook, Gurrieri Qualify for Nationals

The Yale men's fencing team. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)
The Yale men's fencing team. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Over the weekend, select qualifying members of the Yale men's fencing team competed in the NCAA Northeast Regional Championships, hosted by Brown in Providence, R.I. In the foil tournament of the Regional Championships, junior Nathaniel Botwinick took first place, sophomore Jonathan Holbrook took fourth and senior John Gurrieri took sixth. Based on their performances at Regionals and their fencing throughout the season, all three qualified for the NCAA National Championships. However, schools are only allowed two representatives per weapon, so only Botwinick and Holbrook will be participating in the National Championships.

Among 11 qualifying fencers, Yale sent five foilists to the NCAA Regional Championships. Of these five, three advanced to the final pool of 12 based on their fencing in earlier rounds. Due to the strength of its foil squad, Yale had more foilists qualify to the final pool of twelve than any other school. Given that it was an individual tournament, the three Bulldogs then had to fence each other in order to determine the final standings. Botwinick defeated Holbrook and Gurrieri, while Holbrook defeated only Gurrieri. Botwinick eventually had to participate in a fence-off for first place against Harvard's Tommaso Dirobilant. The Bulldog more than rose to the challenge, defeating Dirobilant by a score of five touches to zero. In the end, Botwinick only lost three bouts the entire day.

"Although the team as a whole did not qualify as many fencers as we would have liked," commented captain Andrew Holbrook, "the strength of the foil squad definitely showed today. Qualifying five fencers to the regional championships with three advancing to the final round there, we proved again that we have one of the strongest foil teams in the region."

The final ranking of foilists, combining both the tournament results and regular season performance, placed Botwinick in first place, Gurrieri in third and Holbrook in eighth. The fact that all three qualified for the NCAA National Championships forced coach Henry Harutunian to make the difficult decision of choosing Botwinick and Holbrook to advance.

"Being able to send only two of the three fencers is definitely a difficult situation," said Holbrook "but as a team, it's also the best place to be in. Coach made a decision and we are now all supporting the fencers who will be representing Yale at Nationals."

In the saber tournament, freshman Colin Mills finished in tenth place, just missing qualifying by a few touches. Luckily, he is in a strong position to qualify as an at-large selection for the NCAA National Championships.

"Colin Mills just barely missed qualifying outright," said Holbrook "but we are hopeful that he will be selected as an at-large candidate and confident that if he is, he will represent Yale very well at Nationals."

In the epee tournament, Yale's best finisher was Alexander Cohen at 16th followed by Thomas Bell at 22nd.

"In epee, we are definitely disappointed to not have any qualifiers," commented Holbrook, "but the marked improvement in Tom Bell's fencing this season and over the past years cannot be overlooked. As a walk-on to the team, he has been a real leader with his hard work, perseverance and solid contributions to this team's performance throughout the season."

Full results from the NCAA Regional Championships can be found here.

The qualifying Bulldogs will next fence at the NCAA National Championships on March 27 and March 28, in Cambridge, Mass.


Report By Arsi Sefaj '11, Yale Sports Publicity