Last weekend, the men’s fencing team took fifth place in the Ivy League Championships at Coxe Cage. Despite their disappointing finish, two of the Bulldog fencers earned the All-Ivy Honors, foilist James Broughton ’15 and epeeist Peter Cohen ’14. Now with the NCAA National Championship looming ahead next month, the News sat down with Cohen. Hailing from Irvington, N.Y., last season’s All-American talked about the state of Eli fencing, his fencing career and the team’s prospects for the future.
Q First of all, congratulations on earning All-Ivy Honors. How do you feel about earning this award? How do you think you got this?
A I’m very happy. It shows recognition of my hard work. It shows that I am dedicated to the team. We didn’t end up winning all the matches, but I still contributed.
Q How is the atmosphere on the team right now? How are the practices faring? I heard the team got the Monday off.
A The result was not ideal, but people are working really hard.
Q Going back to the Ivies. What do you think caused the fifth-place finish?
A We first had Brown. They are not one of the strongest [teams], but we did well against them. Then it was Harvard. We played really hard but lost. And then we found out that Princeton won. We had a chance if we beat Princeton. We had a lot of energy going into the next day, but we lost. There wasn’t any specific thing that we couldn’t execute. We wanted to finish with a positive record. I believe nobody was in the right mindset. The loss against Columbia was again about broken mentality.
Q Is there anything that could be done specifically to improve in epee?
A The team hasn’t changed much from last year. Basically it is all about mentality, and we just have to work on that.
Q Did many people show up to support you? Parents? Suitemates like Adam Fields ’12?
A Two of my suitemates, my parents, sister and my high school coach were there.
Q How is your relationship with the coach, Henry Harutunian? He seems to regard you highly.
A He is such a legend. He is really interesting. He takes fencing into a lifestyle, more than just a sport. He matured me as a person. I really appreciate that. He is also really wise so I can learn a lot from him.
Q Tell me about your high school fencing days. Did it help in any way in preparing you to become a better fencer at Yale? Did you also happen to have what people call a “fencing notebook,” a record book of your fencing scores in your teenage years?
A I fenced on my high school [Hackley] team in New York. It wasn’t intense, but I fenced at the international level. I won a silver medal on Team USA in Maccabiah. That prepared for my level of fencing here. But the best thing about here is I have team that supports me.
Q How did fencing influence your life?
A I have learned to lose like a gentleman and sportsmanship. I also learned determination and time management skills. My results influence the team, in the sense people rely on me, so I have to make sure I “produce and produce.” This is something the coach always emphasizes.
Q Is there any special diet that you follow? Do you, or rather, can you drink coffee?
A I don’t drink coffee. I don’t have a special diet. I am just tall and lean. I pretty much eat anything at the dining hall. On match days, I have bananas and Gatorade mixed with water.
Q It seems that fencing requires a high level of concentration. How do you work on this?
A Basically we have to compete more and practice more. We do situational bouting, where you are put in a high pressure situation.
Q Can you give us some of your insights on the fencing team’s walk-in system? Do you think more spots are needed for recruits?
A I think more spots can’t hurt us. Traditionally, other teams with many recruits are better, but we have been fighting so well. Next year we need more recruits in foil since the current foilists are all graduating.
Q One of the team’s biggest prides is holding the highest average GPA standing among all the varsity teams. What made this possible? Did the coach’s philosophy of putting priority on academics have anything to do with it?
A He understands that we are students. Our priority is to win, but also he knows that we go to Yale. He believes in being well-rounded.
Q One of the team’s symbols, the Little Iron Man, is displayed on the second floor of Payne Whitney Gym. Can you tell us any interesting stories behind it?
A It’s the oldest trophy in the collegiate sports. It comes from IFAs ([Intercollegiate Fencing Association] that we won a couple years ago, and that is why we are still keeping it. It was for the best foil squad.
Q What else do you do on campus, besides fencing?
A SigEp and [Yale Entrepreneurial] Society.
Q What is the team’s goal for the NCAA National Championships and, going further, the rest of the year?
A Last year, I earned 15 out of 24 points for Yale, and our team earned 40 points in total, which put the team in 10th. I was in third place. I definitely want to qualify and hope to make to All-Americans like last year and show some improvement.