WALTHAM, Mass. – The NCAA National Collegiate Fencing Championships came to a close today, seeing sophomore Andrew Mackiewicz (Westwood, Mass.) defend his 2015 national title and be crowned the 2016 Men’s Sabre Champion.
Mackiewicz becomes the fourth member of the men’s team to win repeat National Champion titles and the third to win back-to-back honors. The last Nittany Lion to do so was foilist Nonpatat Panchan in the 2002 and 2003 seasons.
After going 19-4 in the round-robin, Mackiewicz went to the semifinals, defeating Edward Chin of Princeton 15-11. Teammate and senior captain Kaito Streets (Redwood City, Calif.) also made it to the semifinal round, but ultimately fell to two-time runner-up Ferenc Valkai of St. John’s, 15-11. In the final, Valkai took an early 8-6 lead against Mackiewicz. After the halfway point, Mackiewicz scored the first three touches, taking the lead 9-8 before clinching the title with a 15-11 win.
“It's a relieving feeling [winning the title]. Though all the pressure and nerve of having to defend the title came through, it was a great feeling coming out on top,” said Mackiewicz. “It's a great feeling to win the individual title because everyone is going after it, but to win it back-to-back is something special.”
For Mackiewicz, this year’s championships brought along added pressures.
“Last year it was a ‘You got nothing to lose, give your best shot’ environment for me. Being new to collegiate fencing, I prepared as best as I could but didn't have any expectations on how I was going to do,” explained Mackiewicz. “This year, I needed to take it touch by touch and let the rest of the competition fall into place. I was very eager to defend the title, and I wanted to prove that my freshman title was not a fluke. I'll be striving for that title every time.”
Mackiewicz emphasized that while hard work and determination were important factors in his success, it was also the guidance of teammate Streets that helped him improve this season.
“[Throughout the season] I was letting unnecessary nerves get to me, but I'm thankful to have had my captain, Kaito [Streets], by my side to guide me in the right direction in terms of what I needed to focus on,” said Mackiewicz. “He is a big factor on my success. He has had a lot of experience with college fencing, and I'm thankful to have had the opportunity to learn from him and apply it to my skills.”
Captain Streets had a successful run at the championships as well, tying for third place with Chin. The foil event saw success for Penn State as well. Senior Nobuo Bravo (San Francisco, Calif.) advanced to the final round, but came up just short, falling 15-3 to Ohio State’s Maximilien Chastanet. Bravo, a two-time semifinalist (2nd in 2015, 3rd in 2014), finished in second place on the day. Junior Howie Chan (Walnut, Calif.) also performed admirably at the championship, finishing in sixth place.
In the team event, Penn State finished in sixth place. While the team fell short of its anticipated 14th National Championship title, the Nittany Lions did see standout performances across the board in the individual men’s and women’s events. In addition to successes by Mackiewicz, Streets, Bravo and Chan, junior captain Jessie Radanovich (Tollhouse, Calif.) became the 2016 Women’s Epee Champion and junior Teodora Kakhiani finished top-10 in seventh place on sabre.
If you were unable to catch this weekend’s action in-person, highlights of the championships will air on ESPNU at 2:30 p.m. EST, on April 6.
Penn State fans are encouraged to follow Penn State fencing via Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/pennstateFEN, on Penn State Fencing's Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/pennstatefencing and on Instagram at http://www.instagram.com/pennstateFEN.