This past weekend, women’s fencing star Maggie Shealy ’23 made history as she became just the fourth Judge in Brandeis fencing history to place in the top four at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Fencing Championships. In addition to Shealy’s historical performance, teammate Tony Escueta ’25 placed 12th in the men’s competition, earning third team All-American honors. Lev BenAvram ’26 also represented the Judges and placed close behind his teammate with a 16th place overall finish.
The championships were held over the course of four days from Thursday, March 23 to Sunday, March 26 at Duke University in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The men’s fencing team had two sabre qualifiers, BenAvram and Escueta. The women’s fencing team had one qualifier, Shealy, who also competed in the sabre competition. The men’s competition took place on Thursday and Friday and the women’s competition took place the following two days over the weekend.
On the men’s side, Thursday started with BenAvram and Escueta facing each other in their first match of their tournament. In the first round, BenAvram went 3-3 while Escueta went 2-4. They each defeated opponents from Wayne State University. BenAvram also defeated an opponent from Stanford University while Escueta defeated an opponent from St. John’s University. To follow, BenAvram and Escueta each moved on to the second round with Escueta earning a record of 3-1 and BenAvram collecting a record of 2-2. Each fencer defeated an opponent from John’s Hopkins University as well as another opponent from the New Jersey Institute of Technology. Escueta earned his third win of the second round against an opponent from the University of Notre Dame. In the third and final round of day one of the men’s competition, BenAvram had a record of 1-2 and Escueta went 0-3 as they each lost to two opponents from Princeton University. BenAvram’s win came from a match against a rival from a fellow University Athletic Association (UAA) opponent from New York University. BenAvram finished the day off having collected a record of 6-7, while Escueta established a record of 5-8 on the day. Based on their results from all three rounds, BenAvram was ranked 13th place overall and Escueta was ranked 15th place overall with one day to go in the men’s competition.
On the second day of the men’s competition, Escueta had an impressive showing coming off of his 15th place rank after the first day of competition. In both the fourth and fifth rounds of the competition he went 3-1. This made his record for the championships 11-10 after five rounds of competition. In the fourth and fifth rounds of the competition Escueta beat opponents from the University of Pennsylvania, Duke University, Boston College, Yale University and Columbia University. These wins placed him fourth in the final pool standings which qualified him for the final championship round of the competition. Escueta’s 11 wins in the competition matched the program-high for the NCAA championships which was set in 2013 by Adam Mandel. Escueta was the only Division III fencer, out of any weapon competition, to place in the top 12 and earn third team All-America honors.
During BenAvram’s second day of competition, he went 4-4 in matches during the fourth and fifth rounds placing him in 16th place overall. BenAvram’ wins came from matches against opponents from Duke University, Boston College and Columbia University.
After both Escueta’s and BenAvram’s performances, the Judges were ranked 13th among other schools in the team standings with Shealy having yet to fence.
In the first day of the women’s sabre competition, Shealy earned a 13-2 overall record for the day, putting her second place in the standings. In the first round, Shealy won her first six matches against opponents from Princeton University, Penn State University, Brown University and Duke University. Her only loss in the first round was in a match against an opponent from the University of North Carolina. This put Shealy in fourth place after finishing the first round. Shealy went on to improve her place to second in the standings after a 3-1 record in the second round. She began the second round with a loss to a fencer from Ohio State, but bounced back by claiming wins in the remaining three matches of the round against opponents from Yale University and Northwestern University. In the third and final round of the day, Shealy went undefeated, winning all four bouts. Impressively, Shealy finished the day going 5-for-1 in matches decided by 5-4 scores. Shealy concluded her first day of competition as the number two seed heading into the second day of competition.
In the final day of competition, Shealy went 6-2 in her initial bouts for the day, making her the number one seed heading into the final four elimination bracket. Shealy remained in second place after the first round of competition. In the fifth round, she won three of her four bouts. A competitor from Princeton University lost all of her bouts in the fifth round which allowed Shealy to succeed the first place position as the pool play rounds concluded. Shealy earned the bronze medal in the final elimination round of the competition along with a Princeton competitor.
After her historical performance, Shealy helped the Judges earn a team total of 40 points. This placed the three Judges in 14th place overall in the team standings, which was the best performance of any Division III fencing team who competed in the NCAA Championships. This is the highest the Judges have scored as a team since they placed 13th back in 2000.