In a carbon-copy repetition of last year, two out of three Harvard fencers survived the preliminary round of competition and advanced to the finals yesterday in the NCAA fencing championships at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio.
Both sabre man Gordon Rutledge and foil fencer Phillipe Bennett ran up 7-3 bouting records in the opening round of competition to move on to the finals, which run today and tomorrow.
Harvard's epee representative, outgoing captain Eugene White, was able to win only 5 of 11 bouts yesterday, and failed for the second straight year to advance to the finals in the nation-wide competition.
Rutledge, who just missed advancing to the finals in the IFA eastern championships three weeks ago, was superb in yesterday's competition, according to Crimson coach Edo Marion.
Very Smooth, Very Good
"Gordon was fencing excellently today," Marion said last night. "He was very smooth, very good. There was no struggling. The victories he produced were convincing ones. All the bouts he won were very elegant."
Bennett, who ran up an identical 7-3 bouting record in last year's preliminaries before collapsing in the two days of the finals, was not quite as impressive as Rutledge, but had no trouble moving up.
"Phillipe was the normal Phillipe," Marion said. "He was little overconfident, but he had a pretty good day. I tried to impress on him that his best action is the attack, and today he made some very beautiful attacks. He responds to this type of competition."
Both Bennett, who was seeded fourth in his pool, and Rutledge, who had an eighth-place seed, will be ranked among the top five in their weapons going into today's opening round of the finals. And Marion, who hasn't had an All-American since Geza Tetrallyay finished fifth in epee two years ago, is optimistic about their chances.
"Gordon and Phillipe are as qualified All-American candidates as any others here," Marion said. "I am pretty confident that they can do it." To attain All-American standing, a fencer must finish in the top six in his weapon.
The performance of White was a sad repetition of last year's NCAAs. Harvard's All-Ivy epee champion just couldn't get untracked in the preliminaries. "Eugene was nervous as usual," Marion said. "He is a very fine and competent fencer, but he worries too much. He just got too wound up today."