March Madness isn't limited to basketball, March is the month most NCAA winter sports crown national champions. This weekend the Ohio State Fencing team, one of the university's strongest sports programs, is set to compete for their second National title in three years.
The competition takes place in Columbus, in the French Field House, on the 10 year anniversary of Ohio State's first NCAA title in the co-ed team era of NCAA fencing. Since 2004 Ohio State has won two more national titles in 2008 and 2012, and they are in strong position to contend again for the top spot on the podium.
The competition is divided up into six fields. There are three fencing "weapons" with athletes specializing in one of them as they contain different rule sets. The foil is a small, light sword and competitors can only score by touching the point to an opponent's torso or neck, simulating a killing blow. The epee, based off the dueling rapier, is heavier and larger, and to score a fencer can touch the point to any part of the opponent's body. The sabre, based off the miltary cavalry sabre, allows attacks to the top half of the body and fencers can cut with the blade as well as thrust. Additionally foil and sabre have scoring rules know as "right of way" to mitigated touches that occur at the same time, while in epee a touch results in a point, even if both fencers score on the same action. There are men's and women's divisions in each weapon.
The NCAA tournament is one of the most difficult formats in fencing, even Olympians have expressed that the format creates a great deal of pressure and is geared towards action and upsets. A school can qualify a maximum of two fencers per division, setting a school's limit at 12 fencers in the entire field. Each athlete is entered in a two day round robin in their division's field of 24 fencers, were every fencer faces one another to five points. The school that has the most cumulative wins at the end of the day is the National Champion.
The top four of each division then will head over to St. John's Arena and be placed in a four person bracket. They will fence to 15 touches, the winner of this mini-tournament to be declared that division's Individual National Champion for that year.
Ohio State is one of three teams to qualify 12 fencers and features several Olympians and Olympic hopefuls, giving them an inside track to a spot on the podium at the very least. The action has already started as the first round oft he women's competition has started today. Friday at 1:30 pm the individual national champions will be decided and then Saturday and Sunday the Men will take to the piste.
So if you are in Columbus this weekend stop by the French Field House and trade some O-H-I-O's after Buckeye wins and support one of the stronger non-revue sports at Ohio State.
Live results can be seen right here
The individual brackets will be live on ESPN 3 Friday and Sunday