By Rebecca Binder, DAPER Communications
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. - Joseph Rafidi (Los Angeles, Calif.), a sophomore epeeist on the MIT men's fencing team, will likely spend at least part of the next few weeks brushing up on his Russian.
The electrical engineering and computer science major will represent the United States as part of the American Junior National Fencing Team at the 2012 Junior World Championships in Moscow in April. Rafidi, one of only three epeeists to be picked for the team, secured his spot on the squad following a year-long qualification process that began with a silver-medal finish at the Junior Summer Nationals, continued with a second-place finish at January's Junior North American Cup, and culminated in a 13th-place finish at the Junior World Cup in Sweden. Rafidi was the only American entrant to finish in the top 16 at the Junior World Cup, where he lost to Great Britain's Philip Marsh, who won last year's Junior World Championship.
Rafidi, who considers himself "truly blessed with good fortune," attributes his success to his Engineer teammates and coaches. He calls the MIT fencing program a huge help, and credits long-standing Engineer coach Jarek Koniusz for his help and support.
Rafidi's also found success on MIT's stage. He's an integral part of the perennial powerhouse, which consistently wins the New England Championships and has sent 26 fencers to the NCAA National Championships in the last 17 years. Rafidi kicked off his sophomore campaign with a first-place finish at the Big One Invitational in November, before leading the Tech epee contingent to a 25-11 showing at the Brandeis Invitational. Rafidi picked up where he left off in January, posting a 9-1 individual record as part of the squad's 4-1 day at a Northeast Fencing Conference competition at Boston College. Most recently, MIT placed third of eleven teams at the New England Championship, on the strength of the epee unit's second-place finish and Rafidi's seventh-place showing.
Rafidi's first season at MIT stands as a telling indicator of his success: he notched a seventh-place finish in his collegiate debut at last year's Big One Invitational, and punctuated his introduction with a 10-2 weekend at his first Northeast Fencing Conference meet. Rafidi swept his Haverford College competition while lodging a 9-3 overall performance at his first Brandeis Invitational, and followed that up with a 7-2 individual record at last year's Brandeis Beanpot. Rafidi put the cap on his debut season with a 9-2 weekend at last year's New England Intercollegiate Fencing Championships, in which the epee squad finished fourth.
On Sunday, March 11, Rafidi will travel to Boston College as part of MIT's NCAA Regional Championship contingent. The event serves as a qualifier to the NCAA Championship, which is scheduled for March 22.