Toronto – Not only are the Toronto Varsity Blues set to host this year’s OUA Men’s Fencing Championship, but they will do so as the three-time reigning champions. All eyes will certainly be on the Toronto squad to thrill their home crowd with another banner season triumph, but with other medal-favourites like RMC, Ryerson, and Carleton chomping at the bit for a gold medal of their own, this weekend’s fencing finale – taking place at the Athletic Centre Field House from February 9 to 10 – is anything but a cake walk.
The host Varsity Blues will welcome the rest of the province as three-time reigning champions, hoping to claim their fourth consecutive title in front of their home crowd. At the heart of these banner aspirations are a pair of 2018 OUA all-stars – Colin Dale (Toronto, Ont.) and David Chen-Li (Halifax, N.S.).
Now in his fourth season with Toronto, Dale is a three-time all-star and also boasts a George Tully Trophy for his proficiency in skill, style, and sportsmanship. Dale will look to regain his status as the individual epee champion, while also leading the Blues epee team to the top of the podium after a second-place finish last year. Chen-Li, meanwhile, will headline the team’s foil contingent. The second-year standout earned the individual bronze a year ago and also claimed a silver medal at the 2018 U20 Commonwealth Championships in the United Kingdom last July.
With the graduation of four-time all-star William Kinney, Filbert Yung (Toronto, Ont.) and Cameron Haigh (Fredericton, N.B.) will be called upon to lead Toronto’s sabre attack; a group that has claimed the team relay victory in three of the past four years.
After turning in a silver-medal winning performance a year ago, the RMC Paladins will be looking to keep turning heads to go that one step further in Toronto. The Kingston squad is on the hunt for big gains in foil, both individually and in the team relay, as this was the area in which they were unable to yield any points a year ago. Should they take a step forward herein, and maintain their standing in both epee and sabre, the team can very well continue their upward trend.
Garrett Whelan (Grandora, Sask.) will be among those with lofty expectations for red nation, as the highly-recruited fencer out of Saskatchewan will certainly be in the hunt for hardware at this year’s championship. RMC’s top sabre fencer will want to add to his individual and team bronze from a year ago, while fellow Paladin Kyle MacKinnon (Oakville, Ont.) will also be looking for continued podium contention after surprising the epee field in 2017-18. A rookie then, the now second-year standout made it to the bronze medal bout before ultimately finishing fourth in both the individual and team events, but alongside teammates Scott MacGregor (Saint John, N.B.) and Byoungchan Kim (London, Ont.), should be right in the hunt for more this year.
It has been five years since the Carleton Ravens topped the podium, but with seven titles to their name thus far, they have the pedigree to build on their bronze-medal finish from last year. For the team to regain their golden glory, the black birds will need the defending epee champion, Zac Zanussi (Red Deer, Alta.), to be on top of his game. Zanussi will also be joined by another previous winner, and a well-decorated one at that. Phil McCully (Ottawa, Ont.), who earned the individual foil title three years ago, has won three gold medals with the Carleton foil team, and will be looking to add to his lofty haul to help bring his team to the forefront.
Just missing out on the podium a year ago was a Ryerson Rams group that combined to finish fourth in the 2017-18 provincial finale. While they may not have a banner to their name just yet, the Rams are certainly looking to turn in a top-three result at this year’s finale and have some key competitors at their disposal to make that happen.
Headlining things in the epee events is a newcomer to the squad, as first-year Alexander Zwegers (Mississauga, Ont.) will add another medal-contending presence to the Rams attack. The freshman has picked up a silver medal at the Brock Open so far this season, but it will be championship hardware on his mind this weekend. The same can be said for fellow Ram Gianfranc Pipitone (Mississauga, Ont.), who is a two-time bronze medalist in the foil relay and placed eighth a year ago at the championship event in individual foil as well.
One of the province’s best fencers will help lead the Brock Badgers into action this weekend, as they look to improve on their sixth-place result from a year ago. Aaron Olmstead (Kingston, Ont.), now in his second year, brings his top provincial rank and No. 3 national ranking into competition, and will do so alongside Malcolm McLeod (Beamsville, Ont.), who is another standout for the St. Catharines squad. McLeod has fared well on the university fencing scene, and now in his third year, he’ll be competing with the titles of National University champion and Eastern Canadian University champion under his belt.
Just like McLeod, Queen’s boasts a reigning OUA all-star of their own heading into action this weekend, but David Litwin isn’t the only Gael who could turn in a top-notch performance at Toronto. While Litwin, who claimed silver in the individual epee a year ago, has put forth strong showings at multiple events this year – including the RMC and Brock Invitationals – fellow combatants like Gavin Crowder, Rory McEwen, and newcomer Alexander Barber have also done well for the Tricolour this year ahead of their final action at U of T.
McMaster, meanwhile, placed ninth a year ago, but will be looking onward and upward for a stronger finish at this year’s event. The discipline that should provide the Hamilton squad the best chance at a podium finish is the sabre, as the team boasts a trio of individuals that should contend for some hardware therein. Calvin Zhu (Hamilton, Ont.), along with Eugene Mech (Oakville, Ont.) and Michael Boulos are Mac’s senior group in sabre and will be looking to make a splash among the field.
The Marauders should also be competitive in the foil events this weekend, thanks in large part of Kevin Shao (Mississauga, Ont.), who is one of two returnees in the discipline targeting a top-eight finish alongside teammate Pedro Oliviera (Mississauga, Ont.).
Western has seen several new faces compete for them over the season and they’ll bring these new-found experiences to the table to compete against even more of the province’s best. After losing their lone OUA all-star from a year ago – Joe Wright – the Mustangs will need others to step up for the team to contend with the rest of the conference. Among those additional schools who will be hoping their top fencers step up on the provincial stage are the Guelph Gryphons, Ottawa Gee-Gees, Trent Excalibur, and York Lions.
These competing squads make up the field of 12 that is set to be en garde at the University of Toronto’s Athletic Centre Field House from February 9 to 10. Individual events will start the festivities on Saturday before the team relay outings will wrap things up on Sunday.