Freshman Yale Cohen and junior David Cohen give Penn a dose of brotherly love and excellence with the foil. It must not have taken very long for the childhood sword fights of brothers Yale and David Cohen to turn into the real thing. The Wharton freshman and Engineering junior found international fencing success well before either could drive. The duo is not only known for being the top foilists on the Penn men's fencing team -- the brothers from Houston have been competing in and winning international competitions for the past seven years. At his mother's encouragement, David Cohen picked up his first foil at the age of 14. He began training in his home town under the guidance of three-time Egyptian Olympic team captain Mauro Hamza. Yale decided to join his older brother a month after David began fencing. "I'd heard of [fencing] in movies but I'd never seen it done," Yale said. "I saw what [David] was doing and I thought it was pretty cool, so I tried it." Because St. Mark's High School didn't have a fencing program, the brothers continued to train privately with Hamza. They began competing in statewide tournaments -- including Texas' Van Buskiak tournament, in which both brothers placed first during their fencing careers -- before moving on to bigger and better things. "We've been to a lot of national tournaments where we end up fencing each other," Yale said. One such occasion was the 1997 Junior Olympics, when Yale faced his brother in one of the finals rounds. "It was really close, and I flicked him and hit him over the head, behind the mask," Yale said. "It made him really dizzy." Yale ended up winning the bout when his brother had to leave for medical reasons. The elder Cohen's resume has rapidly grown more impressive over the years. Among his long list of achievements are a sixth-place finish at the 1997 Junior Nationals, the 1999 IFA Championship and membership on the 1998 U.S. Junior Pan-American team. In addition, David made it to the Junior Olympics from 1996-98, advancing to the finals in '98. Penn fencing coach Dave Micahnik remembers officiating at David's national tournaments while David was still in high school. "Recruiting was not very difficult," Micahnik said. "Dave searched for academic programs. He's in the [Management and Technology] program, and that's a big attraction for people. He wasn't dissuaded by the fact that it's extremely challenging." While Micahnik kept an eye on David Cohen, he also took notice of Yale. "I saw Yale during his development years," Micahnik said. "I knew the family at that point. When he showed up here, he was surprised I had been watching him for a while. I basically knew what I was getting." Like his brother, Yale Cohen's resume includes a slew of first-place wins. Yale won both the 1998 and 1999 Masters Open Divisional Tournaments. He also finished first at the 1997 Cadet North American Cup and was ranked No. 1 in his five-state section for two consecutive years before coming to Penn. Last December, Yale finished third in the Palm Springs Senior North American Cup. Yale has made his way to the Junior Olympics every year since 1995, and this year wasn't any different. On Monday, he returned from the 2000 Junior Olympics in Sacramento, Calif., where he placed 13th out of a field of 200. "I knew [Yale] was going to be a promising fencer," Micahnik said. "By the time he got here, he was pretty quick." Yale described his decision to come to Penn in three short phrases -- "Wharton, really good fencing, brother." While Micahnik believes having a sibling on the team brings a feeling of security, he emphasizes that the brothers are independently talented. "They help each other in competition, but either one could advise the other," he said. While David Cohen remembers that years ago he and his brother would compete against each other in practice -- "we wanted each other to lose" -- he claims college has changed this. "Now [Yale] understands that I'm always right," he said. "That's why we don't argue anymore." Both brothers have been happy with Penn's fencing program and maintain good relationships with their coaches. They take their fencing lessons from assistant coach Iosif Vitebskiy, who has a fencing style similar to their original coach's. "Both of us take a lot from our coaches," David said. "They're interested in helping us out and giving us good advice. We learn a lot from them." This season, the Cohens have helped make the Penn foil squad a powerful entity. When Penn's January 22 meet with Rutgers was stalled at 13-13, it was David Cohen's final-bout triumph that brought his team to victory. David also contributed to other Quakers' wins by going undefeated at Duke and Yale, while Yale Cohen went undefeated in meets with Harvard, Yale, Rutgers, Haverford and Johns Hopkins. "Dave always comes over and asks the epee squad how we're doing. He's a team player," Penn epeeist Jim Benson said. "The Cohens are part of the strength of the foil team, and that helps the strength of the team overall."Comments powered by Disqus
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