COLUMBUS, Ohio With the 2008 NCAA National Championships set to begin Thursday in French Field House, the Ohio State fencing team now rests its national title dreams on 12 of its members. Here is a closer look at each Buckeye fencer competing in the NCAA Championships

Sabre: Siobhan Byrne (Sr., Eislingen, Germany) and Eileen Grench (Sr., Davis, Calif.)
Epee: Kaela Brendler (Sr., San Antonio Texas) and Aleksandra Obrazcova (Sr., Daugaupils, Latvia)
Foil: Oksana Dmytruk (Fr., Kiev, Ukraine) and Lindsay Knauer (So., Medford, N.J.)

Sabre: Mikhail Momtselidze (Jr., Overland Park, Kan.) and Sergey Smirnov (So., Shymkent, Kazachstan)
Epee: Jason Pryor (Jr., South Euclid, Ohio) and Sean Harder (So., Redondo Beach, Calif.)
Foil: Andras Horanyi (Jr., Boulder, Colo.) and Ben Parkins (Fr., Woodlands, Texas)

A native of San Antonio, Texas, fifth-year senior Kaela Brendler is the lone holdover from Ohio State’s 2004 national championship team. That season, she placed seventh in women’s epee as a freshman, helping lead the Buckeyes to a 34 point victory over second place Penn State. In 2005, Brendler placed fifth, and in 2006 reached the medal round to finish third and garner her third consecutive All-American honor.

Despite missing her true-senior season in 2007 due to injury, Brendler returned to the Buckeyes in 2008 to lead the women’s epee squad, posting a 45-16 record, including a 12-1 mark at the NYU Duals Jan. 26.

Last season, Andras Horanyi won Ohio State’s fourth consecutive foil national championship and will once more look to capture gold this season. Horanyi, who grew up fencing in Boulder, Colo., has been dominant in his collegiate career, finishing second during his freshman campaign to teammate Boaz Ellis and winning his first individual NCAA championship in 2007.

This season, Horanyi has been a stabilizing force on a youthful foil team, compiling a 24-3 record against varsity opponents in 2008 to push his career record to 89-7. Additionally, he won both the Midwest Conference title and also earned gold at the Midwest Regional Qualifier. Prior to the season, Horanyi earned individual gold at the Pan-American Games while competing for Team USA.

Three-time All-American Siobhan Byrne is now in her final season with the Scarlet and Gray and will look to add an elusive championship ring to her already stellar Ohio State career. Byrne, a native of Eislingen, Germany, finished third at the NCAA Championships as a freshman in 2005 and followed that effort with a seventh place finish in 2006 and a ninth place performance at the 2007 championships.

With an all-time record of 140-20, Byrne is the active leader in wins for the Buckeyes. This season, she posted a 43-6 record en route to gold in sabre at both the Midwest Conference Championships and the Midwest Regional Qualifier.

Junior Mikhail Momtselidze is no stranger to the NCAA Championships, as he earned first-team All-American status as a sophomore in 2007. Hailing from Overland Park, Mo., Momtselidze has spent considerable time this season in international competition, attempting to qualify for the U.S. National Team.

He has been a force when he has participated, racking up a 24-5 mark against varsity competition in sabre this season and was one of five Buckeyes to win gold at the Midwest Conference Championships. At the NYU Duals Jan. 26, Momtselidze posted a 13-2 record over five matches.

Veteran women’s sabre specialist Eileen Grench has enjoyed a prolific Ohio State career and will look to add a national championship to her collection in her last competition with the Scarlet and Gray. A two-time NCAA national championship participant, Grench is second only to Byrne in career wins with the Buckeyes, standing at 137.

Along with Byrne, the Davis, Calif., native has anchored the women’s sabre team over the last three seasons. Grench has collected a 41-5 mark this year and earned silver medals at both the Midwest Conference Championships and the Midwest Regional Qualifier second only to Bryne in both competitions. She also competed with Team USA at the Pan-American Games prior to the season, helping the U.S. to a silver medal.

Now in his third season with the Buckeyes, junior Jason Pryor brings a wealth of national championship experience to the men’s epee squad. His hometown of South Euclid, Ohio, is the closest to the Ohio State campus of any of the 12 national qualifiers. A two-time competitor at the NCAA Championships, Pryor currently has a 60-19 career record for the Buckeyes.

This season, Pryor has been a constant leader for the epee squad, winning 27 duals over 16 matches. He finished third at the Midwest Conference Championships and added a sixth place finish at the regional qualifier.

A native of Daugaupils, Latvia, senior Aleksandra Obrazcova will join Brendler in representing the women’s epee squad at the championships. In 2007, she made her first trip to the NCAA Championships, placing 10th and earning third-team All-American honors.

At the NYU Duals Jan. 26, Obrazcova won an epee-squad best 14 duals. At the Midwest Conference Championships, she earned the bronze and at the Midwest Regional Qualifier she took home gold.

Sophomore Sergey Smirnov, a native of Shymkent, Kazachstan, has been a valuable asset for the men’s sabre squad. Prior to becoming a Buckeye, he was a standout junior fencer, earning three gold medals in the Asian Cadet and Junior Championships and is also a two-time national champion of Kazachstan. Smirnov took 11th at the national championships in his debut season in 2007.

His sophomore season has been equally impressive, going 27-9 in 13 matches. He finished fifth at the Midwest Conference Championships before taking the gold at the Midwest Regional Qualifier this past weekend.

Lindsay Knauer was injured before her freshman campaign got off the ground in 2007, but in her sophomore season she has been an integral part of the foil squad that has helped the women’s team land a No. 1 national ranking. In November, the native of Medford, N.J., captured a gold medal at the Penn State Garret Open and went 21-4 at the Northwestern Duals in February, including wins over Adi Nott of Notre Dame and Allison Glasser of Penn State, each NCAA Championship qualifiers last year.

Now in his second year with the Buckeyes, sophomore Sean Harder is making his first NCAA Championship appearance. Harder, who came to Ohio State from his hometown of Redondo Beach, Calif., has been a workhorse for the men’s epee squad this season, going 22-12 and placing fifth at the Midwest Regional, the highest of any Buckeye in the event.

Freshman Oksana Dmytruk has been nothing short of sensational this season for Ohio State with the foil since joining the team in January. The Ukrainian native put the collegiate fencing world on notice with a perfect 31-0 record at the Northwestern Duals. Three weeks later, Dmytruk took gold at the Midwest Conference Championships and then continued her hot streak by taking gold at the Midwest Regional Qualifier.

As one of two freshmen (Dmytruk is the other) to qualify for the championships, Ben Parkins will join Horanyi in representing men’s foil. With a 34-8 record during his debut season, the Woodlands, Texas, native has been one of the more consistent Buckeye fencers. Parkins went 14-1 at the NYU Duals and followed that performance with a 20-7 record at the Northwestern Duals.

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