In what will likely be one of the largest fields of the 10-day event, Joseph Isaac (Morris Plains, N.J.) needed nearly nine hours to come away with a gold medal in the 235-person men’s U19 epee division.
In addition to pool bouts at the start of the day, Isaac battled through 10 bouts in the direct elimination and repechage tables to earn his first North American Cup gold.
Isaac won his first four bouts of the day to advance to the table of 24 where he lost to Joseph Rafidi (Hidden Hills, Calif.), 14-13, in overtime.
“I thought I was out when I lost, so I suited down and everything and then once I found out that I still got to fence in the repechage, it was just fun to be back in it again,” Isaac said.
The loss meant Isaac could still be eligible for a medal, but would need to win three more bouts to advance to the quarter-finals.
Isaac rose to the challenge, defeating Spencer Amann (Westminster, Colo.), 15-11, Dylan Nollner (Ogden, Utah), 15-12, and Benjamin Frieman (The Woodland, Texas), 15-11, to qualify for the quarter-finals.
Isaac won his quarter and semifinal bouts against Michael DeVito (Ridgefield, Conn.), 15-6, and Dale Purdy (Ligonier, Pa.), 15-11, respectively.
At just after 6 p.m., Isaac made his first-ever trip to the finals strip at a national event where he faced Rafidi for their second bout of the day.
In the finals, Isaac and Rafidi would find themselves in overtime again with the score tied at seven after three regulation periods.
“I’ve fenced him in college too, because he fences for MIT, and we went into priority then, too, so I guess we always go into priority,” Isaac laughed.
Although Isaac was given priority after the coin toss, meaning that if no touch was scored during the bout he would win gold, the Isaac chose to play an offensive game.
“My coach said that since he would be expecting me to be very defensive since I had been pretty defensive for a lot of that bout, so then during the break I was trying to figure out what to do against him,” Isaac said. “I knew one of the solid touches I got during the bout was when I went low for his foot and then he’d start coming forward and I’d hit him on the arm, so that was pretty much my goal. So I kept going for his foot, but I wasn’t expecting to get the glove touch. I was aiming for it, but wasn’t sure if I’d get it.”
Although the day was long, Isaac maintained his focus on each individual bout rather than the stack of tables ahead of him.
After the final bout, Isaac said his first priority was to call his parents to share the good news.
“I am so happy! I have to call my mom and dad and tell them how I did,” he said.
At 19-years-old, many of Isaac’s competitors have been fencing for 10 years or more, but the new champion said he didn’t pick up the sport until nearly halfway through high school – a choice that would ultimately earn him a slot on University of Pennsylvania’s fencing team.
“I started sophomore year in high school just for kicks. A lot of my friends were fencing and I wanted to find something to fill up winter term, so I started sophomore year and didn’t start fencing competitively until January of my junior year, but it’s awesome being able to fence in college and the coaches at Penn have been great,” Isaac said.
While Isaac earned his first gold on Friday, the women’s U19 saber division featured a familiar face on the top of the podium in 15-year-old Skyla Powers (Atlanta, Ga.)
Powers, the top-ranked junior and cadet in the nation, placed in the top 10 at both the Junior and Cadet Worlds in Jordan in April and earned her last NAC win at the November event in the U20 saber division.
Powers advanced through to the quarter-finals where she defeated 2011 Junior Olympic Champion Desirae Major (Olathe, Kans.), 15-10.
In the semifinals, Powers had a close bout against her Margaret McDonald (Atlanta, Ga.) – her teammate both at the 2011 Cadet Worlds and for Nellya Fencers in Atlanta.
Powers outtouched McDonald, 15-14, to move on to the finals where she faced 15-year-old Sage Palmedo (Portland, Ore.) who has won two NAC titles this season.
In the final, Powers took control early and dominated the bout to win the gold, 15-7.
“I’ve been fencing Sage since we were both 10, so I know her fencing style pretty well and I knew what to do to counteract it,” Powers said. “I’ve won multiple times in the past year, but it always feels good to win. I had a good day and all of my bouts were decently hard, so I’m happy with it.”
With one gold under her belt, Powers will remain in Reno for the chance at two more medals in the junior and senior saber team events where she will fence with McDonald who won bronze in the division and Lena Johnson (Peachtree City, Ga.) who placed seventh.
In the day’s second-largest division, 14-year-old Aaron Ahn (Los Angeles, Calif.) won his first National Championship title in a field of 201 Y14 foil fencers.
After defeating his younger brother Aiden Ahn (Los Angeles, Calif.) in the semifinals, 15-2, Ahn, found himself tied at seven in the final bout against Thomas Dudey (Bellaire, Texas).
Ahn scored the next three touches to regain the lead at the break and slowly moved ahead, 13-10, before Dudey made a comeback, scoring four touches to Ahn’s one to tie the bout at 14.
With Ahn’s Los Angeles International Fencing Center and Dudey’s Salle Mauro teammates cheering for the last bout of the day, Ahn scored the final touch to earn the win, 15-14.
In the women’s Y12 epee division, 13-year-old Giana Vierheller (Pittsburgh, Pa.) won her first NAC gold medal after going undefeated in the direct elimination table. In Y12 divisions, athletes fence the best of three five-touch encounters for each bout and Vierheller didn’t drop an encounter all day. In the final, Vierheller won her first encounter against Saanchi Kukadis (Manhasset, N.Y.), 3-1. Vierheller won the next encounter, 5-3, to win gold.
Competition continues on Saturday with the schedule as follows:
U19 Men’s Foil
Y14 Women’s Epee
U16 Women’s Saber
U16 Men’s Epee
Y10 Women’s Foil
U19 Men’s Team Saber
Top eight results for each division are as follows:
Men’s U19 Epee
1. Joseph Isaac (Morris Plains, N.J.)
2. Joseph Rafidi (Hidden Hills, Calif.)
3. Dale Purdy (Ligonier, Pa.)
3. Alexander Eldeib (Burke, Va.)
5. Jack Hudson (Houston, Texas)
6. Peregrine Badger (Providence, R.I.)
7. John Frame (Berkeley Heights, N.J.)
8. Michael DeVito (Ridgefield, Conn.)
Women’s U19 Saber
1. Skyla Powers (Atlanta, Ga.)
2. Sage Palmedo (Portland, Ore.)
3. Margaret McDonald (Atlanta, Ga.)
3. Joanna Lew (Durham, N.C.)
5. Francesca Russo (Wayne, N.J.)
6. Alisha Gomez (Wayne, N.J.)
7. Lena Johnson (Peachtree City, Ga.)
8. Desirae Major (Olathe, Kans.)
Men’s Y14 Foil
1. Aaron Ahn (Los Angeles, Calif.)
2. Thomas Dudey (Bellaire, Texas)
3. Aiden Ahn (Los Angeles, Calif.)
3. Jarred Gou (Saratoga, Calif.)
5. Raymond Chen (Dallas, Texas)
6. Darren Mei (Foster City, Calif.)
7. Mohamed Hassan (Saint Louis, Mo.)
8. Tyler Endee (Jackson, N.J.)