March 25, 2012

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Building off a nearly flawless, 13-1 first day Saturday, Ohio State redshirt junior Max Stearns cemented Ohio State’s fourth fencing NCAA championship and sent the decibel levels soaring inside French Field House with his fifth and final touch against Yale’s Nathaniel Benzimra in the seventh round at 11:08 a.m. Sunday.

Coming into the day, the Buckeyes held a 14-point lead over Princeton and remained stable through the first hour and a half before opening a 20-point gap that clinched the title. The Scarlet and Gray added one more point to their lead to finish with a 21-point advantage, 182 to Princeton’s 161. Notre Dame nearly overcame the Tigers in the final round, but finished third with 160 victories. St. John’s (N.Y.) and Penn State rounded out the Top 5.

The championship is the third combined (men’s and women’s) for the program, with all three coming under the direction of head coach Vladimir Nazlymov, who spent little time celebrating and remained focus on motivating his team for strong individual finishes. Ohio State won its first title in 1942 when the NCAA supported only men’s fencing. Nazlymov also led the squad to titles in 2004 and ’08.

Semifinal bouts began at 1:45 p.m. inside St. John Arena, followed by championship bouts and the team championship ceremony.

Stearns finished at the top of the sabre leaderboard at the end of qualifying rounds and earned the No. 1 seed heading in the final four. Sophomore teammate Rhys Douglas finished his second NCAA appearance with 12 victories to place 13th.

Junior Marco Canevari and sophomore Kristian Boyadzhiev continued their impressive run in men’s epee as both earned a berth in semifinal bouts. Canevari remained in first throughout the day while Boyadzhiev edged Princeton’s Jonathan Yergler and Nicholas Vomero of St. John’s by one victory to secure third and ensure the possibility of an all-Buckeye championship.

Second-year foilist Zain Shaito gave the Buckeyes the sweep of number one seeds in men’s weapons. Shaito earned 19 wins, one more than Princeton’s Alexander Mills. Rookie Chris Colley added nine wins to Ohio State’s total, finishing 17th in his first NCAA competition.