PSU Fencer Aleks Ochocki Grabs His Second NCAA Championship
It has all come full circle for Aleks Ochocki, the Clark, N.J. native who first won the NCAA championship in saber his freshman year.
This past weekend, after already being named an All-American for the fourth consecutive season, Ochocki defeated Harvard’s Valentin Staller 15-11 in the gold medal match in Columbus, Ohio, capping off his final year at Penn State with a second national championship.
And of course, it wasn’t just the victory that made this memorable for Ochocki. It was all about the journey.
“It feels amazing,” he said, of capturing the title. “I think in the future when I look back on it, it’ll be something really special, and I’ll definitely always remember it. I definitely had to get in better shape and better conditioning [for this season], so my coach really pushed me to get there and make sure that my footwork was a lot better. That was pretty much the main concern this year.”
Entering the medal round as the two seed behind Ohio State’s Max Stearns, Ochocki finished the qualifying round of the championship with 17 victories in 23 duels, second only to Stearns’ 19. But the two wouldn’t face off again–Ochocki defeated Princeton’s Philip Dershwitz 15-12 in the medal round’s semifinals before defeating Staller to take the gold. And getting back to the podium after his impressive freshman campaign made this particularly special for Ochocki.
“It feels good to end my career as a collegiate athlete the way that I started it after hitting a little drop over the past two years,” Ochocki said. “It’s kinda special to me because I get to go out on top, the way I came in.”
This was Ochocki’s second year as Penn State’s fencing team captain, and he made it count. But as one door closes, another opens. Ochocki has previously fenced on U.S. national teams–placing third in the 2010 Junior Olympics–but his new goal is making it to the real thing.
“I’m going to try and make a run for the 2016 Olympics,” he said. “Besides that, I haven’t really thought that much about [my career and future]. After the end of school, I’m going to go back home and sit down with my coach and we’re going to come up with a plan for the next four years.”