BURLINGTON, Ont. - The two-time defending OUA champion Carleton Ravens will invade the campus of the rival uOttawa Gee-Gees this weekend, looking to hoist the Charles Walter Trophy for the seventh time in program history.
The Ravens return several key pieces from last year's championship-winning squad, including 2015 OUA all-stars Zachary Zanussi (Red Deer, AB), Joe Wright (Ottawa, Ont.), Philip McCully (Ottawa, Ont.), Alexandre Salat (Calgary, AB) and Geoffrey Devaney (Ottawa, Ont.).
Last year at the OUA championship, Devaney and Salat won gold and silver, respectively, in foil, while Wright, a fourth-year neuroscience major, captured silver in epee.
The pair of Devaney and Salat, along with McCully and Sebastien Mustovac (Montreal, QC.) won gold in the foil team event a season ago. In the epee team event, Wright, combined with Zanussi, Liam Costello (Ottawa, Ont.) and Brian Valta (Prague, CR) also captured team gold for the Ravens. In addition, Carleton also won a bronze medal in the men's team sabre at the 2015 OUA champisonship.
With team wins at both the Carleton Invitational and the RMC Invitational earlier this season, the Ravens enter the weekend with championship aspirations as they look to three-peat in the gym of their crosstown rivals.
William Kinney (Mississauga, Ont.) and the University of Toronto Varsity Blues will head to the nation's capital looking to upset the hometown Ravens and capture their first OUA title since 2008-09.
Kinney, who was awarded the George Tully Trophy as the most proficient male fencer last year, won gold in both the individual and team sabre events. Despite the departure of 2015 OUA all-star Tommy Liu and Paul Florea, Kinney along with Ryan Tham (Toronto, Ont.) return in 2016 looking to defending their title.
The Varsity Blues also won a bronze medal in foil a season ago, however, Paul Godin (Calgary, AB.) is the only holdover from that squad.
Before the Carleton Ravens won back-to-back titles, it was the Queen's Gaels who were the dominant team in OUA men's fencing, winning three consecutive titles from 2011-2013.
Last year at the OUA championship, the Gaels captured a team silver in epee and if they managed to take a step up on the podium this time around, it could go a long way when the overall hardware is handed out on Sunday.
Gavin Crowder is the only hold-over from that silver medal winning team from year ago, however, along with epee specialists John Wright, Sahil Bablani and Nick Dyke, Queen's will look to win the team event for the first time since 2011.
The host University of Ottawa Gee-Gees won silver in foil at the 2015 OUA championship but capturing gold in the event at home (and likely beating those pesky Ravens in the process) would be bittersweet.
The silver medal winning team of Gary Balaganthan (Toronto, Ont.), Brad Bermingham (Oakville, Ont.), François Provencher (Ottawa, Ont.) and Nicholas Wagman (Ottawa, Ont.) are back in the fold once again for the Gee-Gees. As a rookie last season, Wagman, a physiotherapy major, won individual bronze in foil and will look to turn that into a silver or gold at Montpetit Hall this weekend.
The Gee-Gees will also look to sixth-year veteran Colin Ngan () to provide veteran leadership as the team chases their eighth OUA championship and first since the 2000 season.
With a pair of OUA championships in program history, the RMC Paladins will have their eyes set on a third come Sunday afternoon. Leading the way for the Paladins is fourth-year epee specialist Harrison Kelertas (Montreal, QC). Kelertas, a fourth-year honours politics major, was the bronze medalist in the event last year and was named RMC Male Athlete of the Year in 2014-15. Earlier this season at the Carleton Invitational, the Montreal native won gold and is a serious contender in the event this weekend.
Along with Kelertas, Samuel Barrette-Bédard (Quebec City, QC), Kyle English (Kingston, Ont.) and Prescott James (Winnipeg, Ont.), are all returning for the Paladins. While the team captured an epee bronze medal a year ago, it wouldn't be surprising if they returned to Kingston golden this time around.
However, Ryerson Rams epee specialist and defending Desjarlais Trophy winner Arseni Tikhomirov (Richmond Hill, Ont.) might have something to say about Kelertas' title hopes. This will likely be the last competition for the fifth-year retail management major and winning back-to-back individual gold titles would be a great way to cap off an outstanding Rams career.
The Western Mustangs haven't hoisted the Charles Walter Trophy since they went back-to-back in 1993 and 1994. But coming off a silver medal in the men's sabre event a year ago, the Mustangs could be a dark horse to medal once again this weekend.
Kevin Ngan (Sarnia, Ont.) and Brandon Kennel (Englewood, CO) return once again for Western, however, the Mustangs will need to fill the spots of 2015 OUA all-star Andrew Kennel and Nigel Johnson Steeves who are no longer with the team. Andrew won a bronze medal in the individual sabre at last year's championship but it could be Brandon standing on the podium Saturday afternoon.
The Brock Badgers, McMaster Marauders, York Lions, Guelph Gryphons and Trent Excalibur round out the competition.
The OUA Men's Fencing Championship begins on with the individual events on Saturday, Feb. 13 and concludes on Sunday with the team relay competitions.
All events will take place at Montpetit Hall on the campus of the University of Ottawa.