USFA Changes in Division 1 FencingEvery year, the USFA makes changes in national level events in an effort to make national fencing more competitive at the international level. These changes do contribute to the significant improvement of USA fencing and we love seeing them. This year one of the most dramatic changes in the national event format came to Division 1.

Actually there are two big changes that are coming to Division 1 Fencing in the 2017-2018 season, and they’re changes that we’re very excited to see!

Epee becomes two days

Last year was the first time that the USFA tried a two-day event in one of the NACs for epee. This format worked well last season, and it’s set to stay on now that that it’s proven effective.

Epee has long been the weakest weapon for United States fencing in the international community compared to American foil or sabre. Though women have done decently well in epee in the senior circuit, occasionally winning podium medals at international events such as World Cups and Grand Prix, finishing in the top 8 and even securing a bronze in London, senior men’s epee is woefully lacking in prowess in the international community. As a result of all of this, the USFA decided to improve the way that national epee events will be formatted in the United States. Competition needs to be fiercer and more focused, allowing epee fencers to improve their game and make strides in their competitive ability.

Moving the competition from one day to two days is an effort to increase the level of competition in epee and put significant focus on performance in the pools.

In the new format, the preliminary pools on the first day of competition will have the top 62 epee fencers (based on the senior national points) get a bye to move onto competition on day 2. Three quarters of the fencers in that first pool will go through direct elimination to reduce the number of competitors down to 64 fencers. Then on day 2, both the 62 fencers who received the bye and the 64 fencers who made it through will move on to the final pool with top 112 fencers moving to direct elimination. So that means that about half of the fencers will fence in the pools twice to get to the DE’s. Compared to the previous year’s NACs, this is like doing two NACs in one! No doubt going thru such an intensive two days should sharpen the skills!

Those who were eliminated on the first day will still get the bang for the buck – everyone who is eliminated on Day 1 will get the chance to compete again on Day 2. Obviously, they won’t get national points, but they can still improve their classification by participating in Day 2 fencing. Plus it is still Division 1 NAC fencing! So both groups – those who made it to the main final pool of Day 2 and those who got to the consolation round on Day 2 will get a huge benefit of fencing on the national level.

This format will be used in the October, December, and January NAC events. It’s important that epee fencers who are planning to attend these competitions be ready for this change. When they travel to Division 1 events, epee fencers should now plan for two days. Of course, if they don’t progress to the second day they can still stay and participate for improvements in classification, even if they aren’t able to gain national points during the fencing competition. Overall this change gives epee fencers a much better opportunity to fence on the national level. It’s just a wonderful change to the national fencing schedule, even if for some high schoolers and their parents it creates an additional expense in time and budget!

Junior points qualification

The second major change that was rolled out by the USFA comes with regard to national points. In order to participate in the Division 1 championship, a fencer must be on the senior rolling points list. That’s hard because the only way to earn national points on Division 1 is to be in the top 32 among the best in the country in your respective weapon at NAC’s or July Challenge. That limits the number of fencers who are able to compete in Division 1 Championship, and it limits the number of national competitive slots to a relatively small pool of fencers.

With the coming season, that rule is about to change for the better for fencers who are working to get to that championship level. Fencers who are on the Junior National Rolling Points Standings will also be allowed to compete in Division 1 fencing. That’s fantastic news because it means that many more people will be able to qualify for and attend the national Division 1 Championship. Some Junior fencers will now have the chance to fence with the best fencers in the United States.

We all know that there’s a huge amount of emphasis placed on the junior leg. Opening up the Division 1 leg to junior fencers will allow that junior event to become even more impactful! Succeeding on the Junior NAC’s will allow young fencers to progress, and that’s very exciting. Junior fencing events tend to be larger events in any case, with more than the 160 fencers in each weapon. Thanks to the national points rule, 64 fencers get on the junior national points list and eventually much more fencers will be allowed to compete in the championship.

Lets us repeat again – more additional fencers that are on junior point list will qualify for the Division 1 national Championship. It’s just a marvelous change! We want to see more fencers pulled into competing at this top level because it means they can have that growth experience that comes with this kind of competition.

Overall great news from the USFA and we look forward to a great season!

What do you think of these new changes to the USFA rules? How do you think these changes will affect competition? Let us know in the comments!