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Yergler Wins NCAA Epee Title; Fencers Enjoy Highest Finish in Combined Era

By: Princeton Athletic Communications
          Release: 03/25/2012
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Jonathan Yergler is the 2012 NCAA men's epee champion.
Courtesy: Princeton Athletic Communications
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Becoming the first Princeton fencer to win an NCAA title in 11 years, junior Jonathan Yergler provided the highlight of what was already an outstanding weekend for the Princeton fencing program at the NCAA championships.

Yergler beat Columbia's Alen Hadzic 15-8 to win the epee title, the first for any Tiger since Soren Thompson '05, also an epeeist, pulled the feat in 2001. Yergler becomes the eighth Princeton man to win an NCAA individual title and the fifth in epee.

"It means a lot. It's incredibly exciting amazing thing to be a part of, happy that it went the way that it did," Yergler, who also defeated Hadzic 5-3 in the pool portion of the competition, said. "I found tidbits of strategy I could use later based on my bout in the five touches, so that was very helpful."

The win is also Princeton's second national title across all sports this academic year after the men's squash team won the Collegiate Squash Association team title. Princeton has won an individual or team national title in 41 straight years.

Yergler was one of three Princeton fencers to make the direct-elimination semifinals, along with sophomore saberist Philip Dershwitz and senior foilist Alexander Mills. Dershwitz fell to eventual champion Aleksander Ochocki of Penn State 15-12 in the semifinal, and Mills was defeated by Stanford's Turner Caldwell 15-12.

On the team leaderboard, Princeton enjoyed its highest finish since the combined men's/women's format began in 1990, edging out Notre Dame 161-160 to finish second. Ohio State won its first title since 2008 with 182 wins.

"We're really excited about the result," Mills said. "Obviously we would have loved to win it all but Ohio State did a really good job. We're really happy we were able to beat out Notre Dame by one bout over four days. Out of hundreds of bouts, we beat them by one, so it came down to the wire and we had just enough to win, so it felt really good."

Princeton and Notre Dame were wrangling for the No. 2 spot heading into the last few bouts of pool competition, including a few that involved Mills.

"We didn't know what the score was," Mills said. "This time, I made an effort not to look at the scoreboard. Regardless of the situation, you still need to win every bout you possibly can. It's not good to be thinking about what would happen if I won, what would happen if I lost, how many do we need. It's a lot better to totally not even look at it, just fight through every single touch of every single bout and try to win as many as you can."

Ohio State and Princeton were tied for the top at 88 after the women's competition ended Friday, but the Buckeye men were too strong for the rest of the field. OSU had four of the 12 semifinal spots across the three men's weapons and saw no fencer finish lower than 17th in the 24-man field of each weapon.

"I am incredibly proud of my team," Yergler said. "I think everyone did amazing, especially the women who really dominated. Of course we were a little disappointed that we couldn't win, because it was something that was very close and very attainable, but we deserved our second-place finish."

This year's Princeton team is the sixth Ivy League program since 1990 to win or finish runner-up. Harvard won the title in 2006 after Columbia did so in 1992 and 1993. The Lions also took second in 1990 and 1991.

Princeton finished fourth last year, making this the fourth straight year the program's finish has gone up. The Tigers placed 10th in 2008, eighth in 2009 and sixth in 2010. Princeton had also finished fourth in 1994, 1996 and 1999 in what were the program's best finishes under the current format until Sunday.

Dershwitz finished with the second seed in the saber competition after going 17-6, while senior Alexander Mills was 18-5 and also took the second seed in the foil competition. Yergler won the fourth seed in the epee competition after going 15-8, edging out Nicholas Vomero of St. John's, also 15-8, on touch differential for the last spot in the medal round.

That trio earned All-America honors, as did junior epeeist Edward Kelley, who placed eighth after going 13-10. Senior foilist Marcus Howard finished 20th at 6-17, while sophomore saberist Robert Stone finished 22nd at 5-18.

The All-America honor is the fourth in as many years for Mills, making him the first Princeton men's foilist to be a four-time All-America and just the fourth Princeton man to do so in any of the three weapons.

Yergler, Dershwitz, Mills and Kelley joined Eliza Stone, Ambika Singh, Eve Levin, Katharine Holmes and Hannah Safford as All-America honorees, giving Princeton nine of a possible 12 All-America honors on the weekend.

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