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The History of Harvard's Commencement, Explained
If the Harvard fencing team had defeated Army Friday night their record would now be 5-0. If any of the five 5-4 decisions which went against the Crimson had ended differently the swordsmen would have remained unbeaten. If any of the six fencers who won two of their three bouts had gone 3-0 the duelers would still have a perfect record. If. But that's not the way it happened, as Army beat Harvard, 14-13.
The match began well enough for the Crimson who jumped out to an early 7-4 lead. Richard Gillette led Harvard, winning twice in close bouts, 5-4 and 5-3. After going down 2-0 in his opening duel against Army's aggressive Joe Reed, Gillette changed his tactics, stopped retreating and took full advantage of the fact that his attacking opponent had no defense.
With the match at 7-4 disaster struck the Crimson in the shape of five straight defeats.
Epeeman Bob Tillman tried to right the sinking Harvard ship with a 5-3 victory over Army's Paul Johnson but his bailing out was to no avail as foilsman Gene Vastola, who won his other two bouts, lost 5-4. Vastola gamely fought back to 4-4 after going down 4-2 but then Army's Bob Hamilton used his long reach to touch Vastola just below the neck.
A split of the next six battles, including a 5-4 win by epeeman Russ Kaphan, brought the Crimson to the edge of defeat at 13-11. Vastola made it 13-12 parrying an Alan Starkie lunge away from his left shoulder before counter-attacking for the final touch.
Army's Johnson then finished the Crimson off, defeating Rob Kaplan, 5-3. Up 4-3 when Kaplan lunged forward, Johnson steered the Harvard man's epee to the side, then touched him on the arm to seal the Army victory.
But a Man's a Man...
Eric Mandelbaum then finished the day's proceedings beating Bob Hamilton 5-4. If Mandelbaum, who fenced despite the flu, had only been able to capture one of his other two bouts...
But that's not the way it happened.
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