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Yale Fencing History

Yale Fencing History

Yale fencing started in 1894 but did not begin making waves until 1920 when Bobby Grasson was appointed head coach of the sport. His appointment was soon justified when Russell Davenport '23 won the IFA foil championship as a senior. The following year A.P. Walker '24 earned a spot on the 1924 U.S. Olympic Epee team. Gordon Wolf '26 filled the weapon gap by winning the IFA sabre championship in 1925, followed by Robert Nutting '27 in 1927. Meanwhile, Yale had enjoyed its greatest fencing year in 1926 by winning all four IFA team trophies.

John F. Potter '32, the only fencer ever to win the IFA foil title three straight times (1930-32), lost just one match during his four years in New Haven. A proud Yale fencer, Dernell Every '28, a two-time IFA champion, three-time national foil champion and one of the six Olympians honored with a Kiphuth Fellowship Award (1981), was a member of four U.S. Olympic teams and won a bronze medal at the 1932 games. He qualified for the 1940 and 1944 games but World War II cancelled the competition. Frank S. Righeimer '29, both foil and epee IFA champion his senior campaign, also won indoor and outdoor national epee championships that year.

Current Eli head coach Henry Harutunian was among the 12 Yale people who wore the red, white and blue in the 1984 Olympics. Under Harutunian, who has coached the United States in many major international competitions, the Eli men and women have finished consistently among the NCAA's best. The men won two consecutive NCAA foil championships in 1992 and 1993 and also took home the NCAA sabre championship in 1994. The women's team has claimed national titles in 1982 (AIWA), 1984 and 1985.

Among the many fine female fencers in Yale's history are Andrea Metkus '85, who won a national individual championship in 1982 and went on to become the first Yale fencer to win All-America accolades four straight years (1982-85), and Kristine Campbell '91, who earned a spot on the NCAA All-Decade team for her efforts in the national championships between the years of 1988-1991. Campbell was also named the NCAA Woman of the Year for Connecticut in 1990-91. More recently, Katie Zuckerman '99 was a four-time All-America selection from 1996-99. Other Eli women fencers have gained recognition in the classroom, like Jessica Yu '87, who was first-team GTE Academic All-American in 1986-87. Yu also gained notoriety after graduation, earning an Oscar for Best Documentary Short Film.

Another historic chapter in the Yale fencing story was added in the summer of 2004. Sada Jacobson '06 earned a bronze medal in the women's sabre competition at the Olympics in Athens, becoming the first American woman to earn an Olympic medal in fencing.