Dec. 9, 2004

Vladimir Nazlymov is entering his sixth season at the helm of the Buckeye program. For Nazlymov, the goal is simple. He wants another national championship title.

“If we stay strong and we win, we can defeat any opponent and win another national title,” Nazlymov said. “Only injuries can stop us.”

After back-to-back years finishing fourth in the country at the NCAA championships, the Buckeyes brought home the 2004 national title in March. It was the team’s first national championship. The team combined for 194 points at the national championships to out-score second-place Penn State by 34 points. Ohio State’s point total is the second-highest team total in the five years the NCAA has contested events in the six weapons.

“Four years ago we built the collegiate program here at Ohio State,” Nazlymov said. “Now it is time to build an Olympic-level program. We have a lot of people who support the Ohio State program and it is the best in the country.”

The goals Nazlymov has set for his program do not stop at the NCAA level, however. Just as he racked up international awards, including medals at the 1968, 1976 and 1980 Olympics, he plans to produce fencers that will do the same for the United States.

The Buckeyes begin the season as they travel to face opponents at the New York Duals Jan. 23 in New York, N.Y. The squad will then see action at the Notre Dame Duals Jan. 29-30 in South Bend, Ind., before returning home to host the Ohio State Duals Feb. 5 in Columbus. The Buckeyes compete Feb. 26-27 at the Midwest Conference Championships in South Bend, Ind. The Regional Qualifier is scheduled for March 6 in Detroit, Mich., followed by the 2005 NCAA Championships March 17-20 in Houston, Texas. At the NCAA tournament, the Buckeyes will compete for their second-consecutive national title.

“Some of our toughest opponents are Notre Dame, Penn State and St. John’s,” Nazlymov said. “The Columbia and New York programs have become stronger this season. Penn State will be our toughest opponent at the national championship this year.”

The Buckeye squad is led by overall captains Boaz Ellis, Hanna Thompson and Metta Thompson and weapons captains Christian Rivera (men’s epee), Ellis (men’s foil), Jason Rogers (men’s sabre), Kaela Brendler (women’s epee), Hanna and Metta Thompson (women’s foil) and Marguerite Plekhanov (women’s sabre).

Ellis, the defending collegiate national champion in the foil, burst onto the college scene last season, claiming the Midwest Conference title and helped guide Ohio State to the national championship. He is expected to be the top returning collegiate foil fencer in the nation in 2004-05. Hanna Thompson owns an overall dual meet record of 134-7 the past three seasons and was ranked No. 4 in the nation in the Senior Foil Division by U.S. Fencing (June 11). Metta Thompson has an overall dual meet combined record of 154-12 in the past three seasons and was also ranked in the Senior Foil Division by U.S. Fencing at No. 14.

Rogers was a member of the 2004 United States Olympic team in Athens, Greece and is a two-time First Team All-American. Rivera is one of Ohio State’s top returning competitors in epee and will aim to advance to the national championships in 2005. Brendler finished seventh at the NCAA championships after placing second at the NCAA Regional Qualifier while Plekhanov placed tenth at the 2004 NCAA Championships and tied for the second-most varsity victories on the women’s squad with 44 in 2004.

Also returning for the Buckeyes are standouts junior Adam Crompton and sophomore Denis Tolkachev. Crompton was Ohio State’s first national title winner since 1997 when he captured the 2003 NCAA men’s sabre title and is two-time NCAA sabre champion. Tolkachev was an integral part of Buckeyes’ national title run, placing fourth at the 2004 NCAA Championships and led the men’s squad in varsity victories with 57.

The fencing coaching staff is confident in one of their best freshman recruiting classes within the program. The 2004 freshman class brings 17 newcomers including 11 fencers from the men’s side and six from the women’s squad.

George Blackburne, a freshman from Plymouth, Ind., leads the men’s freshmen squad as he competed in the the 2004 Summer World Cup Championships. He was a four-year starter for the Culver Military Academy from 199-2003 and was a two-year Most Valuable Player.

Leading the way for the women’s side are freshmen Siobhan Byrne, Amelia Gaillard and Eileen Grench. They all competed at the 2004 World Cup Championships and are expected to be an influential role in the Buckeyes quest for another national title. Byrne, hailing from Eislingen, Germany, helped lead the Eislingen team to the German title during both her junior and senior years. Gaillard, from Fayetteville, Ga., won the silver medal at the 2003 Division I National Championships and was a five-year member of the Junior National team (2000-04) with team golds in 2001 and 2004. Grench, a native of Davis, Calif., won the silver medal in sabre at the Junior Olympic Championships.

In the shadows of Nazlymov are assistant coaches Alexander Smerdin, Gia Abashidze and Terrence Lasker.

Alexander Smerdin enters his fifth season as a volunteer assistant coach for the epee squad. A native of Kyrgyzstan, Smerdin brings with him 18 years of coaching experience. He was the Soviet Union Fencing Champion in 1991 and was a West Asian Games Champion in 1997. A two-time member of the Soviet National Team, Smerdin also earned a silver medal in the 1999 Central Asian Games and placed third at the NAC in 2000. Smerdin, who won the 2001 Ohio State Open, coached former Buckeye standout Alexandra Shklar, who won the NAC in 2000 and placed third there in 2003. Smerdin also trains current Buckeyes Kaela Brendler, who placed second at the 2004 Junior NAC, and Denis Tolkachev, who was a finalist at the 2000 Cadet World Championships.

Abashidze enters his fourth season as assistant coach of the Ohio State fencing team. Originally from Georgia, he has coached fencing and lived in the U.S. for more than eight years. He brings valuable skills and experience to share with Nazlymov’s squad. Abashidze was a Russian national foil champion numerous times throughout his career. During his tenure in the U.S. he was responsible for creating many successful members of the U.S. National Team.

Lasker is in his third year as an assistant coach for the Buckeye fencing program. He spent his first two years as the team armorer during the 2000-01 and 2001-02 seasons. Lasker has a long standing relationship with Nazlymov. He began fencing under Nazlymov when Nazlymov moved to the United States in 1991 in Kansas City, Mo. Lasker is a 10-time member of the U.S. National Team and is a five-time national champion. Lasker, a native of Kansas City, Mo., captured a bronze medal at the 1994 Cadet World Championships and was a volunteer assistant coach for the Buckeyes during the 1999-00 season. He also was a finalist at the 1999 Senior World Cup in Moscow.