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David Willette and Katarzyna Trzopek Win Division I Titles in Portland

10/12/2014, 11:00pm CDT
By Nicole Jomantas

(L-R): Division I men's foil medalists Nobuo Bravo (silver), David Willette (gold), and bronze medalists Michael Woo and Jerry Chang.

(Portland, Ore.) – The second day of the October North American Cup was one of upsets as foil fencer David Willette (Lafayette, Calif.) and epeeist Katarzyna Trzopek (Pacifica, Calif.) upset World and Olympic medalists on their way to winning gold on Saturday.

Willette went undefeated in the pool rounds and earned a bye into the table of 128 where he defeated Keith Kan (Millbrae, Calif.), 15-5. David Kong III (Rutherford, N.J.) kept their next bout close, but Willette took the win, 15-12.

After a 15-6 win against Hans Kaiser (Sterling Heights, Mich.), Willette came up against 2013 Senior World Champion Miles Chamley-Watson (New York City, N.Y.) in the table of 16.

The bout would be held on a traditional direct elimination round strip, but a crowd quickly formed and grew to 10 deep as the score swung back and forth and Willette went on to defeat his former Penn State teammate, 15-9.

“That was what I think a lot of people were expecting to be the final – given the people who were here today. It’s definitely unfortunate that we fenced so early. Fencing that early is different. You have a much different outlook on it and I’d say it’s more nerve wracking,” Willette said. “When you’re fencing someone and you know it’s going to be a close one in the final, obviously you want to win, but the dynamic is different. I think that got the better of Miles in our bout. Just because I think he would have fenced a lot better if it was later on because of the nerves of knowing it was the 16. And that’s all you can think about. If you come out on the bottom end, it’s hard and if you come out on the top end, it’s easy to relax a lot going into the next one.

Willette seemed to have few problems refocusing in the quarters as he opened with a 10-1 run during a 15-4 win against Adam Mathieu (Union City, N.J.), 15-4. In the semifinals, Willette and 2012 Junior World Team Champion Jerry Chang (Mountain View, Calif.) exchanged the lead by single touch increments for most of the first period until Chang pulled away at 11-9. Willette fought back to tie the score at 14 and then earned the final touch for a 15-14 win.

On the adjacent strip, two-time Junior World Team medalist Nobuo Bravo (San Francisco, Calif.) defeated Michael Woo (Wayne, N.J.) in another 15-14 semi.

Bravo is not only a familiar opponent for Willette, but also his teammate at the Massialas Foundation and he knew the bout would be tight.

It was Bravo who took the early lead at 5-2 before Willette answered with a 10-2 run that gave him a 10-7 lead midway through the first period.

Even when Willette was up, 13-11, Bravo remained undeterred as he outscored Willette 3-1 for a tie at 14.

“I think what helped me was not beating yourself up over it and it’s so easy to think ‘You’re so stupid. I could have had this bout. It could have been over at 15-12 and now he’s got 14,’” Willette said. “I guess I just didn’t let it bother me that much and I was like ‘Ok. He got it. That’s just the way it is. Let’s just try and get the next one because it doesn’t matter if you win 15-12 or 15-14.’”

Willette scored the next touch to win his first NAC title since 2011.

“I’ve kind of readjusted my training because I graduated and now I’m refocusing on national fencing rather than trying to juggle that and NCAA events,” Willette said. “I fenced a few World Cups last year, but now I’ve really put my attention towards U.S. fencing and it’s really good to be training at home again and starting out with a big result.”

Willette will return home on Sunday not just to train, but also to prepare for a hometown World Cup when the world’s best foil fencers come to California on Friday for the San Francisco Foil World Cup.

“I’m really excited for it. It’ll be kind of weird because you’re used to traveling somewhere to compete, so it will be strange to wake up in my own bed and drive to the competition, but I think it will be very cool to see how the Americans do on our own time zone,” Willette said. “I also think people will like San Francisco a lot and I know it’s going to be a really strong tournament.”

A two-time NCAA Champion, epee Katarzyna Trzopek (Pacifica, Calif.) came to the United States from Poland to fence for Penn State. Now a U.S. citizen, Trzopek has remained a regular on the domestic circuit, but Saturday marked her first gold medal at a NAC event.

Trzopek earned a bye into the 64 and squeezed out a pair of one-touch wins against Canadians in the opening rounds. After a 6-5 victory against Alexis Rudkovska, Trzopek defeated Leonora Mackinnon, 15-14, to make the 16.

Trzopek won her next bout, 15-10, over reigning Division I National Champion Margherita Guzzi Vincenti (Bethesda, Md.) and upset 2012 Olympic team bronze medalist Kelley Hurley (San Antonio, Texas), 15-11, in the next round.

Due to the repechage format of the tournament, Trzopek fenced Guzzi Vincenti for a second time in the quarters and outtouched her opponent, 15-14.

Trzopek went on to defeat two-time Senior World Team member Katharine Holmes (Washington, D.C.) to advance to the gold medal final and a rematch against Hurley.

This time, Trzopek held a two-touch lead after the first period that grew to five at 13-8 by the end of the second. Hurley scored once early in the third before Trzopek finished the bout with a single for a 15-9 win.

“I was just trying to fence better as the bout went on,” Trzopek said. “I was tired and I knew I was ahead, but I wanted to make sure I didn’t settle back and kept putting in more effort and made sure that I tried even harder.”

The win is the first top-four finish for Trzopek at a NAC since 2012.

“I kind of feel complete. I’ve done everything I could and I worked on some of my weaknesses. I just feel calm, but also super happy. I know what to work on and it’s just fulfilling,” she said. 

Sophia Mandour (Perry Hall, Md.) won the women’s foil title in her first Division II NAC event. Up 5-1 over Mackensie Nechanicky (Suwanee, Ga.), Mandour scored four straight to end the second period at 10-3. Neckahnicky scored twice to open the third period, but Mandour finished the bout with a 15-7 victory.

The Division II men’s epee title came down to a battle of the Canadians between Matson Lalor and Loic Beaulieu. Lalor held Beaulieu to only double scores as he won the gold medal bout, 15-6.

The afternoon after winning gold in the Division I women’s saber event, two-time Olympic Champion Mariel Zagunis (Beaverton, Ore.) joined with her OFA clubmates Sage Palmedo (Portland, Ore.), Paola Pliego (MEX) and Siu In (Jenny) Ho (HKG) in the team competition.

Palmedo, a three-time Junior World medalist, anchored the squad to a 45-31 gold medal final win over the PDX Team Black squad of Eva Hinds (Oregon City, Ore.), Kerry Plunkett (West Linn, Ore.) and Monique Ramras (Portland, Ore.)

Canada Eh! Finished third with Meredith Giroux (CAN), Chantel Helwer (CAN), Jacqueline Litynski (Schenectady, N.Y.) and Wendy Yano (CAN) taking bronze.

OFA added a second team saber title when Jeffrey Dalli (San Carlos, Calif.), Alex Lam (Lake Oswego, Ore.), Eric Piispanen (Portland, Ore.) and Phillip Vincent (Ocala, Fla.) took gold. In the final bout, the OFA squad earned a 45-33 win against Nellya fencers Henry Fisher (Kennesaw, Ga.), Alex Walker III (Atlanta, Ga.) and Grant Williams (Atlanta, Ga.)

High Desert Alliance’s team of Jacob Behymer-Smith (Los Angeles, Calif.), Cole Clarkson (Reno, Nev.) and Soheil Khavandi (Reno, Nev.) took bronze.

Click here to view complete results.

Top eight results are as follows:

Division I Men’s Foil
1. David Willette (Lafayette, Calif.)
2. Nobuo Bravo (San Francisco, Calif.)
3. Jerry Chang (Mountain View, Calif.)
3. Michael Woo (Wayne, N.J.)
5. Sam Moelis (Hewlett, N.Y.)
6. Adam Mathieu (Union City, N.J.)
7. Sam Hardwicke Brown (CAN)
8. Alex Chiang (Atlanta, Ga.)

Division I Women’s Epee
1. Katarzyna Trzopek (Pacifica, Calif.)
2. Kelley Hurley (Colorado Springs, Colo.)
3. Katharine Holmes (Washington, D.C.)
3. Jessie Radanovich (Tollhouse, Calif.)
5. Nina Van Loon (Boulder, Colo.)
6. Margherita Guzzi Vincenti (Bethesda, Md.)
7. Courtney Hurley (San Antonio, Texas)
8. Ashley Severson (Franklin Lakes, N.J.)

Senior Team Women’s Saber
1. OFA
2. PDX Team Black
3. Canada Eh!
4. Utah Killer Bees

Senior Team Men’s Saber
1. OFA
2. Nellya
3. High Desert Fencing Alliance
5. Candlewood Fencing Center
6. Salle Auriol Seattle
7. Beaches

Division II Women’s Foil
1. Sophia Mandour (Perry Hall, Md.)
2. Mackensie Nechanicky (Suwanee, Ga.)
3. Arianna Russo (Pine Brook, N.J.)
3. Elina Moon (Johns Creek, Ga.)
5. Samantha Matz (Carrollton, Texas)
6. Paige Luong (Millbrae, Calif.)
7. Erin Dietsche (Long Valley, N.J.)
8. Nina Hambleton (Portland, Ore.)

Division II Men’s Epee
1. Matson Lalor (CAN)
2. Loic Beaulieu (CAN)
3. Stefan Popovici (Katy, Texas)
3. Axel Allgeier (Parker, Colo.)
5. Nicolas Motamedi (Rolling Hills Estates, Calif.)
6. Eliot Herbst (Houston, Texas)
7. Michael Mussari (CAN)
8. Dominic Nicholson (CAN)

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