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Thompson Wins Epee Gold, Schneider Takes Saber Title at Division I Nationals in Portland

04/15/2011, 12:00pm CDT
By No Author

(Portland, Ore.) – A pair of New Yorkers became the first two gold medalists at the USA Fencing Division I National Championships at the Oregon Convention Center on Friday.

Athens Olympian Soren Thompson (New York City, N.Y.) advanced to the quarter-finals of the men’s epee division after a first-round bye and wins against opponents Chase House (Sunnyvale, Calif.) and Jimmy Moody (Colorado Springs, Colo.) by more than six touches each.

While Thompson cruised through to the quarters, elsewhere in the bracket several upsets occurred as two members of the team that won the silver medal at the 2010 Senior Worlds both fell in the table of 32. The #3-ranked fencer in the world, Seth Kelsey (Colorado Springs, Colo.) was upset by Gavin Medley (Albuquerque, N.M. ), 15-14, and Benjamin Bratton (New York City, N.Y.) lost to Adam Rodney (Queens, N.Y.), 15-5.

Medley was eliminated in the table of 16 while Rodney went on to the quarter-finals before losing an exciting bout to Jason Pryor (Colorado Springs, Colo.), 15-13.

A native of the Portland area, Thompson’s 2004 Olympic Teammate Cody Mattern (Colorado Springs, Colo.) found himself competing on the finals strip in front of a hometown crowd.

Mattern opened his semifinal bout with an 8-0 lead against Pryor, his teammate at the U.S. Olympic Training Center, and held on to win the bout, 15-9.

In the second semifinal, Thompson defeated Alex Tsinis (Little Neck, N.Y.), 15-9.

In the finals, Thompson and Mattern fenced a cautious opening period with Mattern taking the lead, 2-1.

“The matches against Cody have always been very close and he’s won more of the recent ones so I didn’t have a very strong game plan because I knew that he’s a very adaptable fencer and forcing anything wouldn’t work so I was fortunate I was able to win some of the tight points and get that lead and hold onto it,” Thompson said.

Thompson kept Mattern to only one touch in the second period as he took a 5-3 lead.  

With 40 seconds remaining in the final period, Thompson led the bout, 11-7, but Mattern kicked off a series of touches that would result in eight points between the two fencers.

“Keeping your awareness, keeping your focus towards the end is very important because sometimes it’s easy to let a match get away from you,” Thompson said. “The other person has a lot to fence for and you’re almost obligated to be passive because you don’t want to rush and let them score touches on you.”

Although Mattern came within two touches of tying the bout, Thompson earned the win, 15-14.

“I think I had very good focus all day, very good control. I knew what I wanted to do. Even if he was able to make a good touch, I was able to make one back myself so I was able to work off the information that was coming to me effectively and that’s the key,” said Thompson who won bronze at this event in 2010. “It’s somewhat of a relief to win. I’ve been close a number of times over the years and it’s good to take one home.”

A seventh-place finisher at the 2004 Games, Thompson said his desire to reach his full potential is what has kept him competing for more than 20 years.

“I’ve always had good results, but never the best results,” he said. “A good day can always be followed by a better day and I just want to push myself to reach my potential as an athlete.”

In the women’s saber division, Schneider defeated two of her 2010 Senior World Teammates to win her first Division I National title.

After a 15-5 win over 2010 Junior World Team member Nicole Glon (State College, Pa.) in the quarter-finals, Schneider faced Ibtihaj Muhammad (Maplewood, N.J.) – one of the top 16 fencers in the world.

Schneider and Muhammad were tied at three touches, but once Schneider scored the fourth, she didn’t look back, building to an 8-4 lead before winning the match, 15-8.

In the finals, Schneider faced Dagmara Wozniak (Avenel, N.J.) With just a year separating 22-year-old Schneider from her opponent, she said that the two had fenced often at not just the senior domestic and international levels, but at the junior and cadet ranks as well.

“I’ve been competing with Daga since I was 14 and we were just saying, especially in cadets, how we would constantly be in the gold medal bout together and sometimes she would win, sometimes I would win. We’re so used to it now,” Schneider said. “We just love each other so much as friends that whatever was going to happen on the strip would stay on the strip. Of course it’s hard because there’s so much pressure, but we understand each other’s situations, so I think we have a lot of respect for each other and what we’re all doing. “

Schneider took an early four-point lead against Wozniak who showed her experience level in the sport as she came back to tie the bout at 12.

“I knew I just had to trust my instincts and trust my body and let all the hard work and training really come through for me,” Schneider said. “In those last minutes where you’re all alone and you can’t get any last-minute advice from your coach, you just have to trust yourself.”

Schneider scored the next two touches to take the lead at 14-12 before winning the bout, 15-13.

“The last two bouts were against really tough opponents, so I was really proud of myself that I was able to win those bouts and show really good fencing,” said Schneider. “It feels pretty awesome. It’s my first time winning a senior competition. I’ve won a lot of cadet and junior NACs, but this is my first senior, so it feels pretty good.”

Less than a month after the first leg of this year’s World Cup season, the Division I Nationals fell three weeks before Schneider, Muhammad and Wozniak will travel to Bologna, Italy for the next World Cup.

“Usually I will take a day or two off right before a big competition, but I didn’t do that for this one because we’re starting to travel again really soon so I just trained right through this one and then I’ll take a day or two right before we go to Italy which is our next competition,” Schneider said. “It’s definitely hard. The jet lag and the airplanes and airports, but that’s part of life and you have to work with that and do your best.”

In team competition, the Manhattan Fencing Center won gold in the Division I men’s saber.

Led by 2008 Olympic silver medalists Tim Morehouse (New York City, N.Y.) and James Williams (New York City, N.Y.), the Manhattan Fencing Center Team had a bye into the finals of the three-team division before facing the rival New York Athletic Club.

The NYAC led the bout, 20-14, but Morehouse scored 11 touches on his second trip to the strip to create a lead for the Manhattan Fencing Center of 25-22.

Morehouse’s 2010 Senior World Teammate Daryl Homer (Bronx, N.Y.), increased the lead to 30-24 during his match with Jeff Spear (Wynantskill, N.Y.)

Competing for the Manhattan Fencing Center, Spear’s younger brother Will Spear (Wynantskill, N.Y.) scored five more touches and held Andrew Fischl (Huntington, N.Y.) to four to retain the lead.

In the eighth match, Homer and 2010 Senior World Team member Benjamin Igoe (Staten Island, N.Y.) fenced each other with Homer earning five touches to Igoe’s two to create a 10-point lead for Morehouse’s anchor match.

Morehouse successfully closed the win for his team as he scored the final five touches against Spear to win the bout, 45-32.

All of the men’s saber fencers will return to the Oregon Convention Center on Saturday for another chance at gold in the individual competition.

In the wheelchair men’s saber division, three athletes fenced for the top spot on the podium.

After the pool bouts, Gerard Moreno (Los Angeles, Calif.) advanced directly to the finals after the pool bouts.

Fencing for gold, Moreno faced Ian Penry (Seguin, Texas) who had edged Joey Brinson (Brandon, Miss.), 15-14, in the previous bout.

In the finals, Moreno took control early before defeating Penry, 15-8.

Competition continues on Saturday at the Division I and Wheelchair Nationals with the schedule as follows:

Saturday, April 16
8:30 a.m.
Division I Men’s Team Epee
Division I Men’s Saber
Division I Women’s Foil
Wheelchair Men’s Epee

1 p.m.
Division I Women’s Team Saber

6 p.m.
Division I Men’s Saber Semifinals and Gold Medal Bouts

6:30 p.m.
Division I Women’s Foil Semifinals and Gold Medal Bouts

Top-eight results for each division are as follows:

Division I Men’s Epee
1. Soren Thompson (New York City, N.Y.)
2. Cody Mattern (Colorado Springs, Colo.)
3. Jason Pryor (Colorado Springs, Colo.)
3. Alex Tsinis (Little Neck, N.Y.)
5. Kyle Wolfson (Beaverton, Ore.)
6. Adam Rodney (Queens, N.Y.)
7. Justin Wan (North Hills, N.Y.)
8. Rob Rhea (Hendersonville, Tenn.)

Division I Women’s Saber
1. Daria Schneider (New York City, N.Y.)
2. Dagmara Wozniak (Avenel, N.J.)
3. Sarah Pak (Roslyn, N.Y.)
3. Ibtihaj Muhammad (Maplewood, N.J.)
5. Nicole Glon (State College, Pa.)
6. Erica Zhao (Plano, Texas)
7. Faizah Muhammad (Maplewood, N.J.)
8. Sarah Bormann (Beaverton, Ore.)

Division I Men’s Team Saber
1. Manhattan Fencing Center
2. New York Athletic Club
3. Hristov-Csikany Fencers

Men’s Wheelchair Saber
1. Gerard Moreno (Los Angeles, Calif.)
2. Ian Penry (Seguin, Texas)
3. Joey Brinson (Brandon, Miss.)

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