COLUMBUS, Ohio The third-ranked Ohio State fencing team will look to defend its Midwest Conference title for the sixth-consecutive year this weekend at the Midwest Conference championships in South Bend, Ind.

The Buckeye men enter the event after a regular season in which they went 21-2 against varsity opponents, while the Ohio State women are 17-5 facing varsity opponents. The men have lost to only No. 1 Notre Dame this season, dropping meetings at the Northwestern Duals and the NYU Duals.

The Ohio State women’s squad defeated Notre Dame at the NYU Duals, but lost to the Fighting Irish at the Northwestern Duals. Other losses for the women include Harvard, Columbia and Penn State.

The Midwest Conference championships will renew the rivalry between the Buckeyes and the Fighting Irish. The two perennial powers have combined to win three of the last five national championships, with Ohio State topping third-place Notre Dame by 41 points in 2004, Notre Dame edging the Buckeyes by two points in 2005 and Ohio State claiming the 2008 title by 10 points over the Fighting Irish. Neither team has finished outside of the Top 5 at the national championships since 2002.

The two teams have met twice this season, once at the NYU Duals and once at the Northwestern Duals. The Ohio State men lost both times, falling 15-12 in both occasions. The Ohio State women split the series, taking the match in New York, 14-13, but losing 17-10 at Northwestern.

Notre Dame is ranked first in both the men’s and women’s USFCA Coaches’ Poll. Seniors Karol Kostka, Bill Thanhouser and freshman Gerek Meinhardt lead the men’s squad, while seniors Adi Nott and Ashley Serrette team with junior Kelley Hurley to lead the Fighting Irish women.

With six-consecutive titles under its belt, Ohio State will return to the Midwest Conference championships in search of another. Last season, the Buckeyes took first place in five of six weapon groups, coming just 25 points short of a perfect 1,350.

Ohio State was powered to a title in 2007 by current seniors Andras Horanyi and Mike Momtselidze on the men’s side, while recently graduated Siobhan Byrne and Eileen Grench were instrumental in the Buckeye victory on the women’s side. Horanyi was also big his freshman year in 2006, teaming with Adam Crompton, Kaela Brendler and Christian Rivera to take the team title.

Beijing Olympians Hanna Thompson and Jason Rogers led the team to its third-consecutive title in 2005, along with Buckeye standouts Boaz Ellis and Denis Tolkachev. The same crew was around a year earlier, capturing the Midwest Conference title on the way to the 2004 NCAA Championship.

The 2003 team, headed by future Olympian Louise Bond-Williams in women’s sabre, clipped Notre Dame for the team’s first conference championship.

The 2008-09 regular season was an action-packed one for the Buckeyes, beginning at the St. John’s Duals and the NYU Duals in New York City. The Buckeye men won all three matches at the St. John’s Duals, clipping Columbia, St. Johns and Harvard. The Ohio State women were not as successful, dropping matches to Harvard and Columbia but beating St. Johns.

Both teams came out of the NYU Duals with 5-1 marks, with the women knocking off Notre Dame and Northwestern but again falling to Northwestern. The men lost to the Fighting Irish, but once again claimed victory over St. John’s and Columbia.

The Northwestern Duals came next, where each squad showed signs of rounding into postseason form. The women pulled off wins against Northwestern, Temple and North Carolina, going 9-2 at the duals, while the men finished 8-1 with wins against Penn State, North Carolina and Wayne State.

The final collegiate event of the regular season came at the Notre Dame duals, where only the Ohio State men competed. The squad chalked up a 5-0 record, recording wins over UC San Diego, Air Force and Stanford.

Five members of the No. 3-ranked Ohio State fencing team competed at the Junior Olympics in Albuquerque, N.M, Feb.16. Two Buckeye fencers earned top honors, while another brought home a third-place finish.

Sabre specialist Emily Cheng continued an eye-opening freshman campaign by taking first in the women’s sabre competition, which had 105 entrants. Classmate Eric Gurnowski was equally impressive, earning the top spot in the men’s epee competition that had 203 contestants.

Sophomore Ben Parkins, who was a member of the Buckeye squad last season at the NCAA Championships, took home a third-place finish in men’s foil.

Other Buckeyes at the event included sophomore Avinash Somir, who tied for 79th in men’s epee, and Trent Lundquist, who took 92nd in men’s sabre.

After the Midwest Conference championships conclude, the Buckeyes will prepare for the 2009 NCAA Championships by competing at the Midwest Regional Qualifier, hosted by Ohio State, March 7-8. The event serves as a qualifier for the championships, where up to two fencers from each weapon and 12 total are allowed for each team.

The 2009 NCAA Championships will take place later in the month, March 22-25, in State College, Pa., where Ohio State will look to defend its 2008 title.