Sterling first season at Brandeis for Cardillo
Growing up in Medford, Julian Cardillo wanted to be just like his brother, Kristian, nine years older and a nationally ranked foil fencer at Brandeis University.
Well, Julian followed in his brother’s footsteps — both at Brandeis and as a foil fencer — but in a much bigger way.
Just a freshman, Julian won his first 24 Northeast Fencing Conference matches, finished 45-17 overall during the regular season, and was named NFC Fencer of the Year. This past weekend, he capped off a sterling rookie season by competing in the National Collegiate Fencing Championships in Columbus, Ohio, where he went up against 24 other foilers in a round-robin format of five-touch bouts.
On the competition’s first day, the St. John’s Prep grad won eight of 14 bouts to land in 10th place, beating fencers from Pennsylvania, Yale, North Carolina, and Drew. But the next day he won only one match to finish 17th overall, well below All-American standards. Nonetheless, Cardillo was far from discouraged.
“I really didn’t expect anything; just qualifying for this event was an accomplishment,’’ he said.
“It was the toughest, most intense competition I have ever been in. I was up against the best foil fencers in the country and beat some of them.
“Am I happy finishing 17th? No. Am I upset? No. I’m a freshman, and now I know what it takes to compete in a championship of this magnitude.’’
Cardillo punched his ticket to nationals after going 4-2 in first-round pool play, 5-1 in the second-round, and 6-5 in the third to finish fifth overall in regionals at Vassar. He eventually was dropped to seventh based on touch differential, but the top eight qualified.
Cardillo says he got the fencing bug watching his brother train and compete first at Warwick (R.I.) Fencing Academy and then at Brandeis. “It was cool to watch him and because there was such a big age difference, I looked up to him and always wanted to do whatever he did,’’ he said. “I found foil fencing to be a form of physical chess.’’
Brandeis coach Bill Shipman is duly impressed.
“We’ve had freshman fencers qualify for the nationals before. It’s not unheard of, but it’s rare,’’ said Shipman. “It happens about every four or five years. It’s getting harder to qualify now, especially on our level, but [Cardillo] did it without too much trouble.
“What is more of a surprise is his being named fencer of the year. It’s not something we would have expected. I believe he’s the first freshman ever to win that distinction. He’s just a tough-minded competitor and loves to beat fencers who are ranked ahead of him.’’
The Northeast Fencing Conference includes about 24 schools, most from New England, excluding Harvard and Yale, and has about 400 competitors.
Fencer of the Year is determined by wins and losses and Cardillo, at 24-1, was head and shoulders above the field. His only NFC loss was to Ethan Patterson of Sacred Heart.
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