New-York Historical Society's Bill Shannon Dictionary of New York Sports

Category Archives: Fencing

Maria Cerra Tishman


(Fencing.  Born, New York, May 17, 1918; died, Paramus, NJ, Jan. 24, 2015.)  Born into a fencing family, Maria Cerra began participating in the sport at age nine. She fenced for Hunter College and was a nine-time member of the Amateur Fencers League of America (AFLA) national championship foil team from 1935-47.  She won the U.S. national individual championship in the foil in 1945.  At the 1948 London Olympic Games, Cerra finished in a three-way tie for second, only two touches away from the gold medal.  After tie-breaking procedures were applied, she wound up fourth.  For the rest of her life, no American woman matched her Olympic finish.  Following the Games, she married epee fencer Peter Tishman.  For more than 60 years after retiring from competition in 1948, Tishman dedicated herself to fencing.  She served as the first woman on the U.S. Olympic Fencing Committee.  During her tenure, Tishman established an international selection system for U.S. teams based exclusively on earned points.  In addition to promoting fencing throughout the U.S., she worked as an elementary school teacher in New Jersey and retired there in 1984.  In her later years, Tishman officiated at New Jersey high school dual meets around the northeast part of the state.  Tishman was in the inaugural class of 18 inductees to the U.S. Fencing Hall of Fame in 1963. – By Zhizhou Ye

Bruce Soriano


Bruce Soriano (Fencing.  Born, Newark, NJ, April 30, 1950.)  Perhaps the most dominating man in his weapon ever in the N.C.A.A. fencing championships, Columbia’s Bruce Soriano became the first fencer in tournament history to win the national title three straight years in any weapon.  Soriano captured the sabre championship in 1970, 1971, and 1972, moving through the tournament in Chicago, Ill., with a 22-1 record in his senior year.  In 1971, he helped Columbia tie (with N.Y.U.) for the national team championship.  That year, Soriano was 26-3 for the 9-1 Lions during the regular season and I.F.A. sabre champion.  He began fencing at Essex Catholic H.S. in New Jersey, where he was a three-letter winner and state champion (1968).  Soriano also won the Michigan State “Sabreur of the Year” trophy three times.

Giorgio Santelli


Giorgio Santelli (Fencing.  Born, Florence, Italy, Nov. 25, 1897; died, Teaneck, NJ, Oct. 8, 1985.)  Giorgio Santelli wound up in the United States because his father couldn’t be bothered to make the trip. In 1928, Italo Santelli was invited to become the fencing coach of New York Athletic Club in association with James Murray.  He decided to send his son who had been a member of the 1920 Italian Olympic gold medal team.  Thus, Giorgio Santelli became one of the leading fencing coaches in the U.S., serving not only at the N.Y.A.C., but also the New York Fencers Club and the University Fencers Club.  In addition, he founded the George Santelli Fencing Equipment Co., one of the largest suppliers of fencing gear in the country. Santelli’s father, who became coach of the Hungarian Olympic team in the 1920s, was credited with revolutionizing the technique in saber. Indeed, Santelli the younger was widely praised for his saber technique in the 1920 Olympics. The Olympic tradition continued for Santelli, who coached the U.S. teams in five straight Olympic Games:  1928, 1932, 1936, 1948 and 1952. Santelli also founded a private school for fencers, Salle Santelli, in Greenwich Village that served as headquarters for dozens of outstanding American fencers and Olympic aspirants. He also brought a perspective, unique at the time, to the sport in that he coached all talented fencers regardless of their race or ethnic background.  This opened the way for black fencers in particular, as did his program of conducting free fencing classes in New York schools.  In his younger days, he had been the champion fencer in both Hungary and Austria, being acclaimed as one of the great masters of the sport.

Gustavus Kirby


Gustavus Kirby (Track and fencing.  Born, Philadelphia, PA, Jan. 22, 1874; died, Bedford Hills, NY, Mar. 28, 1956.)  In 1896, Gustavus Town Kirby was an I.F.A. fencing champion, but it was as an administrator in track and field that he made his greatest contributions.  Kirby ran track at Columbia (1893-95) before attending law school there.  As a senior (1895), he helped organize the first committee to send a U.S. team to the revived Olympics in Athens, Greece, the following year.  Kirby was to serve on every U.S. Olympic Committee through 1956.  He was president of the U.S.O.C. in 1920 and its chairman in 1924.  Kirby served as an official at literally hundreds of track meets, indoors and out, in the New York area for over 60 years and was chairman of the advisory committee for the I.C.4A. for 32 years (1896-1928).

Jim Murray


Jim Murray (Fencing. Born, Philadelphia, PA, 1871; died, New York, NY, Jan. 28, 1957.) Considered by many historians to be the first American-born fencing coach of international significance, James Murray Jr., coached at the New York Athletic Club for 64 years and taught the Columbia varsity for 50. For three decades, he journeyed annually to Paris to meet the best European fencers. Several of his Columbia and N.Y.A.C. fencers became U.S. Olympians and one Lion swordsman (John Purroy Mitchell) became mayor of New York. He also tutored for many years at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in the days when Shakespearean action was a staple of the Broadway theatre, teaching sword work to such great stars as John and Lionel Barrymore and John Drew. Murray began his teaching career as a boxing instructor in his native Philadelphia where his father had been a boxer of some note. He came to New York in 1891 as an instructor at the NYAC. Four years later, he was hired as an assistant to Columbia coach Armond Jacoby, whom he succeeded in 1898. As head coach of the Lions, Murray coached 365 dual matches, winning 192, losing 163 with 10 draws. From 1918 to 1920, his teams were 16-2 and from 1935 to 1937, the Lions won 28, lost five and tied one. At a Columbia dinner honoring Murray in May 1948, it was established that over 2,500 students had fenced under his direction at the school. He retired that October but continued with the N.Y.A.C. for another six years. Murray coached several teams that won the Intercollegiate Fencing Association, then considered the national championship, his last coming in 1942.

Julia Jones Pugliese


Julia Jones Pugliese (Fencing.  Born, New York, NY, May 9, 1908; died, New York, NY, Mar. 6, 1993.)  It may be that Julia Jones-Pugliese was destined to be a fencer. If not, destiny took a real beating.  After taking up the sport in 1927, she became one of the leading American women fencers and coaches.  Jones-Pugliese began fencing while an undergraduate at New York University’s Washington Square College and within two years had risen to the rank of national champion.  She won the championship of the National Intercollegiate Women’s Fencing Association that year and two years after that, in 1931, she became N.Y.U.’s women’s fencing coach.  She coached the N.Y.U. women for 13 years and continued to compete during most of that period.  In 1931, she was the national junior champion, earning her a promotion to the top rank of women fencers in the U.S.  Following her marriage, she moved to Alabama during World War II, returning after V-J Day in 1945.  From 1956, Pugliese was the head fencing coach at Manhattan’s Hunter College (both men and women) and was also an assistant professor in the Department of Health and Physical Education.  She was involved in training and coaching at several levels, serving on the staff at the U.S. Olympic Training Camp in 1964, 1965 and 1967, preparing American fencers.  In 1970, she achieved another of her many “firsts,” being the first woman to represent USA Fencing as a coach at an international tournament (in Tokyo).

Albertson Post


Albertson Post (Fencing.  Born, New York, NY, 1866; died, New York, NY, Jan. 23, 1938.)  One of the most versatile fencers in American history, Albertson Van Zo Post was a member of the New York Fencers Club who excelled in all three weapons.  He was the national foil champion in 1895 and the national epee champion in 1896.  Then he switched to the sabre, winning the national title in that weapon three straight years – 1901 to 1903.  At the 1904 Olympics in St. Louis, Mo., Post won a gold medal in single sticks competition, a silver in foil and a bronze in sabre.

Jose deCapriles


Jose deCapriles (Fencing.  Born, Mexico City, Mexico, Feb. 13, 1912; died, New York, NY, Feb. 21, 1969.)  One of the great names in American fencing, Jose R. deCapriles was also N.Y.U.’s first national champion.  In 1933, as a senior at N.Y.U., deCapriles won the Intercollegiate Fencing Association championship.  A high school basketball player, he learned the sport at N.Y.U. and captained the team his last three years (1931-33).  deCapriles (and his older brother Miguel) fenced for New York’s Salle Santelli and Fencing Club until 1960.  He was on the U.S. Olympic team in 1936, 1948, and 1952.  In 1938, deCapriles was the national epee champion.  But, unlike most fencers, he excelled in all three weapons, and that year ranked fourth in the sabre and fifth in the foil.  In 1946, deCapriles was the foil champion, lost the sabre final, and finished third in the epee.  deCapriles, who came to the U.S. in 1929, founded American Fencer magazine in 1949, and served as chairman of the U.S. Olympic Fencing Committee (1953-57).

Bob Cottingham


Bob Cottingham (Fencing.  Born, Orange, NJ, Apr. 19, 1966.)  A Columbia fencer, Robert Cottingham was the N.C.A.A. men’s sabre champion in 1988 as the Lions won their second straight N.C.A.A. title.  With Marc Kent winning the foil and Jon Normile the epee that year, Columbia became the first school since 1961 to sweep the three weapons in N.C.A.A. championship competition.

Hugo Castello


Hugo Castello (Fencing.  Born, LaPlata, Argentina, Apr. 22, 1914; died, New York, NY, Mar. 28, 1994.)  After being a three-time I.F.A. foil champion (1935-37) at N.Y.U., Hugo Castello coached the Violets fencers to a record 10 N.C.A.A. team championships.  Castello succeeded his father Julio (who had coached N.Y.U. since 1927) in 1947 and served 32 years as head coach (1947-75, 1977-81).  N.C.A.A. fencing championships began in 1942 and N.Y.U. became the dominant team in the post-World War II era.  N.Y.U. tied with Columbia for the 1954 team championship and then won the title outright in 1957, 1960-61, 1966-67, 1970-71, 1973, and 1974.  Castello also coached fencers who brought home 20 individual N.C.A.A. firsts, including three-weapon sweeps in 1960 and 1961.  He also served as a member of the U.S. Olympic Fencing Committee and an assistant Olympic coach in 1960, 1964, and 1968.

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The Bill Shannon Biographical Dictionary of New York Sports is an open database of sports biographies maintained by Jordan Sprechman and Marty Appel. We welcome public and scholarly contributions and suggestions.

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A prolific author, wire service sports reporter, long time Major League Baseball official scorer, football statistician, sports museum founder, theatrical agency owner and public ... read more

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