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Rules of the Game

Collegiate fencing teams are made up of men and women, who compete in three different sword categories. These swords and the rules of competition associated with them are:

  • Foil- This is a thrusting weapon that is thin, light, and blunted; it is flexible and thus bends when struck.  In foil competition, a point is scored whenever a touch is made with a small push-button at the end of the blade on the opponent’s torso, but not on the limbs or head; the touch must last for at least 15 milliseconds.
  • Epee- This sword is also a thrusting weapon.  Although similar to a foil, it is stiffer and its blade is more v-shaped.  The target area is the opponent’s entire body, and hits with the sword’s push-button tip must last from two to ten milliseconds to score a point.
  • Saber- This is a thrusting and cutting weapon, with a curved guard and triangular blade.  The opponent’s target area is the body from the waist up, including the head but excluding the hands.  A point is scored upon contact with the target area by any part of the blade. 

A match takes place on a strip that is 14 meters long and 1.5 to 2 meters long; leaving the strip results in an opponent earning a point.  Fencers may not have body contact with one another.  Matches are scored electronically, so that colored lights go on whenever a sword makes contact with the target area; uniforms are made of conducting cloth to record target area touches.

In collegiate competition, several schools compete in five-touch bouts (the first fencer earning five points wins). Each school designates three competitors for each weapon for each opposing team. Men do not fence against women, and scores are kept both by gender and by opposing team.

Only 44 colleges compete as NCAA-recognized fencing teams.  Of these, 27 are in Divison I (five of which are women’s only), 3 in Division II (1 is women’s only), and 14 in Division III (3 are women’s only7).  There is a single NCAA team championship competition for all schools, regardless of division.  The NCAA recognized a men’s national championship team from 1983-1989, and a women’s national championship team from 1986-1995.  It also began recognizing a combined national championsip team in 1990, and eliminated individual gender team championships after 1995.

Penn State Fencing History

Penn State fencing goes back to 1926, when a men’s team was started by Paul Schweitzer. Competition was discontinued from 1952-1961, but resumed under Dick Klima in 1962.  The team achieved great success under Maxwell Garrett, who coached from 1973 to 1982.  A women’s team was started in 1964 under coaches Barbara Hoepner and Dorothy Moody. Coaching legend Mary Beth Alpin led the women to Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) national championships in 1980, 1981, and the National Intercollegiate Women’s Fencing Association (NIWFA) national championship in 1983. 

In 1983, Emmanuil Kaidanov, a native of the Soviet Union who came to the United States in 1979, took over the men’s team in 1983 and succeeded Alpin in 1985.  Since then, Penn State has been the dominant team in intercollegiate fencing, winning 12 national championships (including six in a row) after the NCAA began recognizing combined champions in 1990, and finishing second seven of the nine other years.  Kaidanov’s Penn State teams have a winning percentage of over 93 percent since 1983.  Individually, his fencers have won 27 individual NCAA titles, and 8 have been Olympians.  In 2012, Aleksander Ochocki earned a national championship in men’s saber, and 3 Penn Staters qualified for the 2012 Olympics – Miles Chamley-Watson (foil) and Doris Willette (foil) for the U.S., and Daniel Gomez-Tanamachi (foil) for Mexico.  In 2013, the combined team finished 3rd nationally (the men finished 1st among men's teams). 

In August, 2013, former Lion and U.S. Olympian Miles Chamley-Watson became the first U.S. man to win a Seniior World Fencing title (foil).

Before the beginning of the 2014 season, Emmanuil Kaidonov was dismissed as head coach, and long-time assistant coach Wieslaw “Wes” Glon was named interim coach.  This change notwithstanding, Penn State won its 13th national championship in 2014 (the most in NCAA history), Glon was named national coach of the year. Kaito Streets won the individual men’s saber championship.

At the 2016 Olympics, Miles Chamley-Watson was part of the bronze medal-winning men’s foil team, and Monica Aksamit was part of the bronze medal-winning women’s saber team.

In 2018, Penn State hosted the NCAA Championships, and, despite being shorthanded, the Lions placed 4th with 137 points.  Zara Moss finished 2nd in the women’s saber, and Karen Chang came in 3rd, while Andrew Makiewicz had a 3rd place finish in the men’s saber. 

Fencing matches take place in the fall and winter.  During the fall, many Penn State fencers represent their home countries in national and international events, leaving newcomers to the program to perform for the Nittany Lions.  In the winter, the full squad is ready for NCAA competition.  Penn State’s fencers compete at home in the White Building.


Team Accomplishments 

Combined NCAA National Championships

1990, 1991, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2014

Women’s National Championship                                      

1980, 1981(AIAW), 1984 (NIWFA),1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995 (NCAA)


Maxwell Garrett (men,1973-1982) 113-21 

1967 U.S. Fencing Association
Hall of fame
6 All-America selections

Mary Beth Alpin (women, 1968-1985) 249-31-1  

1980-81, 1983 national championships
2 individual national champions
21 All-America selections

Emmanuil Kaidanov (1983-2013)  

368-27 (men), 356-33 (women) (through 2009)
11 national championships (combined)
6 national championships (women)
1990, 1991, 2009 NCAA Coach of the Year
1996 U.S. Fencing Coaches Association
Coach of the Year
13 individual men’s national champions
13 individual women’s national champions
189 All-American selections

National Coach of the Year

Emmanuil Kaidanov (1990, 1991, 2009);
Wes Glon (2014)

Notable Players

Jana Angelakis (1980-1985) foil

1981 (AIAW), 1983 (NCAA) nat’l champion
1981, 1983, 1984, 1985 All-American
1980, 1984 U.S.Olympic team
1980-1985 U.S. team - World Championships
1983, 1987 – – World Univ. Games 
1983, 1987 – U.S. Pan American Team

Olga Kalinovskaya (1992-1996) foil

1993, 1994, 1995, 1996 national champion
1993, 1994, 1995, 1996 All-American

Katarzyna Trzopek (2002-2006) epee

2003, 2006 national champion
2003, 2004, 2006 All-American

Doris Willette (2007, 2009-2011) foil    

2007, 2009 national champion
2007, 2009, 2011 All-American
2008, 2012 - Olympics 

Thomas Strzalkowski (1992-1996) saber 

1992, 1993, 1994 national champion
1983, 1987 – U.S. team – World Univ. Games

1991, 1992, 1993, 1994 All-American 
1996 U.S.Olympic team
1994, 1995 - World Championships
1983, 1987 – – World Univ. Games
1995 U.S.Pan American Team

Nonpatat Panchan (2001-2005) - foil

2002, 2003 national champion
2001, 2002, 2003, 2005 All-American
2001-2005 Thailand – World Championships
2003, 2005 Thailand-- World Univ. Games

Player Recognition

National Men’s ChampionsAdam Feldman (foil, 1986); Peter Cox (saber, 1989); Ed Mufel (foil, 1989); Vitali Nazlymov (saber, 1991); Thomas Strzalkowski (saber, 1992, 1993, 1994); Daniel Landgren (epee, 2000); Nonpatat Panchan (foil, 2002, 2003); Aleksander Ochocki (saber, 2009, 2012); Nick Chinman (foil, 2009); Kaito Streets (saber, 2014); Andrew Mackiewicz (saber, 2015, 2016)

National Women’s ChampionsJana Angelakis (foil, 1981, 1983); Olga Chernyak (foil, 1992); Olga Kalinovskaya (1993, 1994, 1995, 1996); Charlotte Walker (epee, 1998); Jessica Burke (epee, 2000); Katarzyna Trzopek (epee, 2003, 2006); Doris Willette (foil, 2007, 2009), Anastasia Ferdman (epee, 2009), Margherita Guzzi-Vincenti (epee, 2010),Jessie Radnovich (epee, 2016).

151 men’s selections, including 4-time honorees: Peter Cox (saber), Ed Mufel (foil), David Cox (saber), Thomas Strzalkowski (saber), Andy Gearhart (foil), Gang Lu (foil). Daniel Landgren (epee), Nonpatat Panchan (foil), Adam Wiercioch (epee), Arthur Urman (epee); Franz Boghicev (saber), Miles Chamley-Watson (foil)

110 women’s selections, including 4-time honorees: Jana Angelakis (foil), Olga Chernyak (foil), Olga Kalinovskaya (foil), Carla Esteva (foil), Charlotte Walker (2 in epee, 2 in foil); Stephanie Eim (epee), Heather Brosnan saber), Meredith Chin (foil); Sophia Hiss (saber), Doris Willette (foil), Margherita Guzzi-Vincenti.

Olympians (U.S. unless otherwise noted) - Jana Angelakis (1980, 1984); Peter Cox (1996); Suzi Paxton (1996); Thomas Strzalkowski (1996), Alex Weber (Germany, 2004); Adam Wiercioch (Poland, 2008); Doris Willette (2008, 2012), Miles Chamley-Watson (2012, 2016); Daniel Gomez-Tanamachi (Mexico, 2012)Monica Aksamit (2016)

World ChampionsMiles Chamley-Watson (foil, 2013)

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