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Fencing coach Dave Micahnik compiled 722 wins and two National Championships before retiring yesterday.

The year: 1973.

The scene: the National Fencing Championships in Tuscon, Ariz.

Dave Micahnik had advanced to the semifinals in his quest to earn a fourth trip to the Olympics. A year earlier Micahnik had narrowly missed a finals berth at Nationals. After his elimination in the semifinals he stood in the middle of the floor, took his epee in both hands and tried to break it - but it wouldn't break. He took it as a sign that his playing career should not end, and he returned to Nationals in '73.

That year he came even closer, losing by just one touch in the semis and said to himself, "Now I know God doesn't want this anymore."

A fortuitous coaching vacancy in the Penn fencing program was too enticing for Micahnik to pass up, so the three-time Olympian and 1960 National Champion decided to permanently sheath his epee and join the coaching ranks at his alma mater.

Now, 35 years later, Micahnik has retired from Penn with 722 career wins, 22 Ivy League titles (including an undefeated men's season this year) and two NCAA National Championships.

"I've been thinking about [retiring] basically since I turned 65 [five years ago]," he said. "It's been year to year, and there's always been the idea that we'd make an announcement not just cataclysmically but give some notice and allow the University to make it an orderly transition."

He alerted the University Friday, but his announcement came Sunday night at the fencing team banquet at The Inn at Penn and was made official in a Penn Athletics press release yesterday.

"Dave is truly a Penn treasure, and his contribution to Penn Athletics and the fencing programs is unmatched," Penn Athletic director Steve Bilsky said in the release. "He has always been the consummate professional and a loyal member of the Penn coaching fraternity."

Fencing's success this year - which included the program's first ever six-weapon title at the International Fencing Association championships - was a crucial reason for Micahnik's decision.

"I have too much pride to go out lousy," he said. "I wanted to go out where people would say 'Well done,' as opposed to saying 'Goodbye.'"

'Well done' is an understatement for a coach who was inducted into the US Fencing Hall of Fame last year in what he deems "a lifetime achievement award" for both competing and coaching.

Micahnik plans, among other things, to travel in his retirement, including what he considers "the trip of a lifetime" to Egypt this June with his wife Phyllis.

He also plans to stay involved with Penn's fencing program, but insists that he does not want to "step on any toes," and will only provide input when it is sought.

"The point is that I want the transition to be seamless. I want a new coach to come in and make it better than it's been under me."

Eclipsing the success of a Hall of Fame fencer and coach will be no easy task.

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