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Fencers tie for 6th at IFA tournament

By Martin Dickau

NEW YORK -- A strong performance by the foil team overcame a poor sabre showing and led the men's fencing team to a three-way tie for sixth place at the Intercollegiate Fencing Association Championships last weekend.

MIT captain Russell Holtz '85, two-time defending foil champion, overcame a disqualification of his type of foil handle to place third in the individual competition in the weapon.

Holtz' finish qualifies him for the NCAA championships later this month.

Mitch Messer '85 won nine of his 11 bouts, pacing the three-man foil team to a third-place finish, one bout behind first-place Yale. Messer finished second in his pool -- four touches behind Yale's Tim Mueller -- and advanced to the semifinals, where he placed 13th.

John Sheffield '86 and Andy Chang '87 combined in the "C" foil slot for six victories.

'Ep'ee fencer Alan Williams '85 will join Holtz at the nationals. Williams won seven of his 11 regular bouts to advance to the semifinals and finished 11th overall among the 33 competitors.

Dan Lord '85 won four bouts in the "C" slot, and Rex Kochanski '85 and Jeff Arenberg '86 combined for three in the "B" competition, as MIT finished in a tie for eighth place with Columbia University.

Yale won the 'ep'ee title with 23 victories, one ahead of Princeton.

The sabre team proved to be the weakest of the three weapon squads, finishing 10th of 12 with only nine victories. Darryl Toney '87 led the squad with 4 victories. "C" fencer Eric Shih '87 had three, and Saechin Kim '86 managed but two.

Host New York University won the sabre title with 30 victories, followed by Columbia and the University of Pennsylvania with 29 each.

The foil competition was marred when the Cornell head coach interrupted a bout between Holtz and Cornell "A" foilist Clifford Rawn to protest that the grip Holtz was using, a "Martingale," was illegal. Rawn was losing, 3-2, at the time.

Similar protests against Holtz' weapon had been lodged at other competitions, but the rulings had always been in the MIT fencer's favor.

The bout committee, however, concluded that this year's version of the rules prohibited the Martingale in the form Holtz was using and forced him to change weapons. The International Fencing Federation (FIE), fencing's governing body, has not issued a ruling on the Martingale, although Columbia University's head coach has requested one.

Holtz went on to win the bout and breezed through Rawn in the semifinals, 5-0, but he experienced some difficulty adjusting to the new grip.

The veteran fencer, who finished seventh at last year's nationals, plans to seek a national bout committee ruling on his weapon this week. If the ruling goes against him, Holtz will spend next week preparing for the nationals with a different grip.