Understanding the National Ranking System in Fencing

On its surface, the national ranking system employed in fencing can look pretty confusing. However, understanding and using the National Points List is crucial to advancing in competition and growing as a fencer. 

The more you understand how national points are awarded and factor into a fencer’s place on the national points list, the easier it is to take advantage of competitive opportunities that could boost your ranking. National points can support qualification for Fencing Summer Nationals, which is a major goal for many fencers. 

Regional points are earned with similar mechanics, but for now, we’ll focus on national points as they apply across the board. 

Understanding National Points

It must be pointed out that national points are not the same thing as classification ratings. Classification ratings are formatted as letter grades, with A being the highest and E the lowest. U stands for ”unrated” and is what novice fencers start off with. 

One of the key things to keep in mind is that in addition to the U-A classification rating awarded in competition, there is a national (and to some extent regional) ranking of the fencers in every weapon and age group that more accurately reflects the strengths of the athletes competing in these events. 

Like classification ratings, national points can serve as a measuring tool for coaches to accurately track the progress and expectations of their fencers. While neither classification ratings nor national points paint complete pictures of a fencer’s ability to perform in competition, national points offer insight into a fencer’s level of success throughout their season. They suggest that fencers with more points may fare better in national tournaments. Being on the list and/or at a certain level on the list is how a fencer qualifies for various levels of competition. 

The National Points List, officially known as the National Rolling Points Standing (NRPS), tracks the amount of points awarded to fencers in their national competitions. The NRPS offers individualized lists for athletes competing in their respective weapon and age groups. 

NRPS for qualification

The most important benefit of national points for a fencer is having them determines fencer’s eligibility to qualify for competition. Competitions that require qualifications are national championships in any age category, from youth to Senior Division 1, and July Challenge for Cadet, Junior and Senior Division 1 category. 

When it comes to earning a spot in the National Team in 3 age categories, Cadet, Junior and Senior, USA Fencing calculates the scores from national tournaments to determine a fencer’s placement on the NRPS in that respective category, with Division 1 competitions counting Senior points. Similarly, USA Fencing uses national points to create an initial seeding (=ranking) at  national and regional events. College programs use this list to recruit prospective fencers into their schools while competing coaches and fencers may refer to the standard to get an idea of where their opponents rank on a national level. 

National points are earned at national-level domestic events (e.g., NAC’s,  Championships, SJCC, SYC’s) and in designated international tournaments as well. If a fencer competes internationally and is awarded points, the international points from their tournaments are calculated into the NRPS, adding to their amount of national points and impacting their ranking on the list. 

It is important to note that national points expire one year after they are awarded. This is why they’re called “rolling points”, because they are a rolling list that changes constantly. A fencer can hold onto the points they accumulated by competing in a tournament equivalent to the one in which they achieved their points. If the fencer becomes ineligible to compete in tournaments or does not gain these points back before the one year is up, then respective points from the same year-ago tournament expire. 

National points are also gender/weapon/age specific and while there is a connection between them by the means of propogation from the higher level tournament (i.e., older age to younger age category within the same weapon/gender), the lists are independent. For example, if a fencer is on Cadet list and Junior list, his or her seeding and qualification for that specific category is based exclusively on the NRPS for that category only.

Earning National Points

In all weapon and age groups, fighting for national points is an essential part of the competitive process, and at times it can be intense, mostly when there is a national team membership at stake.

As the title suggests, national points can only be won at national competitions. The only exception to this is international points which factor into a fencer’s placement on the NRPS. 

Fencers have the opportunity to compete for points at the July Challenge, the National Championships, and the North American Cups as part of national circuit and SYC (for Youth) and SJCC (for Cadet/Juniors) as part of regional circuit.

In national-level tournaments, national points are awarded to the top 40% of finalists at the July Challenge, National Championships, and NACs, capped at 32 if there are fewer than 160 competitors, or to top 64 fencers if there are at least 160 fencers

The Super Youth Circuit (SYC) and Super Junior and Cadet Circuit (SJCC) tournaments handle national point distribution a bit differently. 

While points are still earned by the top 40% of finalists in the SYC and SJCC events, these competitions award only a fraction of the national points that are awarded to participants of national tournaments. 

At SYC tournaments for example, national points earned by finalists are worth 0.8 of points awarded in national tournaments. While SJCC tournaments are newer and usually only held during Grand Prix and World Cup competitions during the last few seasons in pre-pandemic era, and not yet resumed since then, they also award points at a fraction of national tournaments. SJCC competitors receive only 0.2 of the points given at the national level.

Youth fencers typically participate in their own age group or one above theirs. However, these fencers may become eligible to compete in older age groups if they have earned national points in the age group above their own, making them eligible to participate in these older groups in tournaments.

Ranking on National Points List

USA Fencing gives national points to eligible participants in the following age groups:

  • Youth-10
  • Youth-12
  • Youth-14
  • Cadet (Under 16)
  • Junior (Under 19)
  • Seniors Division 1 (Over 13)
  • Veteran 40-49 (V40)
  • Veteran 50-59 (V50)
  • Veteran 60-69 (V60)
  • Veteran 70-79 (V70)
  • Veteran 80-89 (V80)
  • All Veteran (V-Open)

The Division 1 is an open upper age tournament with the only age requirement being that fencers must be 13 or older to participate and be C, B and A rated fencers. 

Fencers must be in good standing with USA Fencing to compete. Any age group that falls outside of this list, such as Youth-8, is ineligible to receive national points in that age group. When determining a fencer’s eligibility, USA Fencing only considers the birth year of the fencer, and not the day or month in which they were born. 

National tournaments allot a different number of national points based on category. Here is the amount of national points given to the finalists in each age group:

  • Youth-10 = 100 points
  • Youth-12 = 150 points
  • Youth-14 = 200 points 
  • Cadet (U16) = 400 points
  • Junior (U19) = 600 points
  • Seniors (Division I) = 1000 points
  • All Veterans = 400 points

International events have much higher weight than their respective national events, which is an obvious thing – after all, we want our fencers to compete in the ranks of the national team at the World scene, and having them perform well counts! 

Important to note that if a fencer earns points in his or her age group and in one of two age groups above, the final points are based on all these results and points are not normalized based on the age category in which they are calculated, but are taken for their absolute value. For example, suppose an Y10 fencer earned 70 points in Y10 national event and the next day she earned 150 points in Y12 event, both results are taken for their face value when considered for Y10 NRPS – as 70 and 150 points. While for her Y12 NRPS only 150 points earned in Y12 event are considered.

If you would like to learn more about how the national ranking system works, definitely check out USA Fencing’s Athlete’s Handbook provided for the most up to date guidelines! Note that points do change periodically, and that USA Fencing updates its guidelines each season. 

Good luck and happy point earning!