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Freshman Simon Kushkov competes in a sabre match against Notre Dame on Jan. 22.

Credit: Samantha Turner

Simon Kushkov made an impression as soon as he stepped on campus in the fall. The freshman won at the Temple Open in October, his first collegiate competition. In the finals, he defeated Columbia’s Colby Harley, who was then ranked the No. 1 junior fencer in the U.S. For the freshman sabrist, the Temple Open was a preview of what was to come. In the regular season, he posted a team-high 55 wins, for a .611 winning percentage, while fencing in 30 of 33 matches. He won all three bouts in nine matches, including in both of Penn's matches against Ohio State, who finished the season fifth nationally, and once against Columbia, who finished fourth.

Despite placing eighth at the Ivy League Championships and failing to make an All-Ivy League team, Kushkov landed in second at the NCAA Mid-Atlantic/South Regionals, propelling him to an NCAA Championships qualification. At the Championships, he went 12-9, placing sixth and being named a second team All-American. His performance helped lead the Quakers to a sixth place finish in the country, their best performance since 2004.

Kushkov’s family immigrated from Ukraine when he was seven years old and had to live off food stamps when they first arrived in the U.S. It was around that same time that Kushkov first started fencing. In 2013, his father Alex founded the Dynamo Fencing Center in Newton, Mass., where Kushkov trained before coming to Penn. His dad continues to run the center and is also the head coach of Tufts’ men’s fencing team. 

Kushkov is part of a strong freshman class for Penn Men’s fencing. Three of the five fencers from the team to qualify for the NCAA Championships were freshmen, including foilist Davide Lorenzoni, who also placed sixth and was named a second team All-American in his event, and epeeist Avery Townsend who landed in 17th.

Read about the rest of DP Sports' End of the Year Awards for the 2022-23 season here.