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01222012_MensFencing_PhiladelphiaInvitational Credit: Laura Francis , Laura Francis

With fall sports coming to an end, Penn fencing is ready to prove why it should not be overlooked.

The Red and Blue will be tossed into the fire early this season, as they will match up against Notre Dame, Princeton, Penn State and Ohio State at the Ohio State Invitational.

All the teams at the invitational this weekend ended up ranked in the top 10 in the NCAA last year in both men’s and women’s fencing, with the Quakers included.

“This tournament is a very good way to start the season rather than start out with weaker schools where its harder to gauge how we do in the preseason, so we have enough time before January hits to get ready,” senior captain Jason Chang said.

The offseason wasn’t just for the players to improve but also for the coaching staff, who added another assistant coach in Slava Danilov .

Danilov is a professional fencing coach and fencing master. Danilov brings 41 years of fencing experience, ranging from high school coaching to fencing with the Ukrainian and Soviet Union national teams .

For Penn, this coaching addition will pay immediate dividends.

As one of the NCAA’s best teams , the Quakers have always brought top talent. This season they will look to take the leap from being great individual talents to a more cohesive team.

“We’ve increased the amount of strength training we do, which has really paid off,” senior captain Sarah Parmacek said. “We’ve been working on agility and footwork, with more of a blade focus. I think overall the dynamic on the team is better than it has been in past years.”

With most of their top fencers returning and the new added talent of a strong freshman class, the Red and Blue feel that  they can win it all this year.

“We have a lot of new freshmen that are very talented,” Chang said. “We have [Zsombor Garzo] who’s from Hungary, Pierre [Aymerich] from France and a lot of new members like Jake Raynis, John Vaiani, Harry McGuire . We have a lot of really bright freshmen, and I think we have a shot at Ivies too.”

The Quakers acquired 13 freshmen this year. Last year’s recruiting focused on the women’s squad, which now has nine sophomores compared to two sophomore men.

This rookie class has a much heavier emphasis on the men. Of the thirteen freshmen representing the Red and Blue this season, nine are men.

Within the male recruits, there was a much-needed emphasis on the epee team. After losing Seaver Wang, Isaac Joseph and Clifford Fisher to graduation last year, men’s epee was forced to look to the future.

Though men’s epee will be younger this year, it in no way means that they will be less skilled. Garzo is evidence of that.

The freshman hailing from Budapest, Hungary, was crowned champion in 2012 of the Hungarian Student Olympics.

This weekend will prove to be a great barometer for the Red and Blue and all the training they have been doing leading up to the season. For the 13 rookies on the team, it will be their debut as Penn fencers. For everyone else, it’s business as usual.

If Penn can come out of the Ohio State Invitational relatively unscathed, it will give them a mental edge over their top competition for the rest of the year. If not, they will train that much harder to show why they are the best of the best.

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