Peter Westbrook controlled his emotions and won his sixth national men's saber title, defeating Alex Orban, 10-8, last night in the National Fencing Championships at George Mason University.
Going into the final, Westbrook, 30, said his biggest worry was keeping his emotions under control.
"I have to be calm, cool and collected and not get excited," he said before he faced Orban, 42. "Orban knows how to be calm. If you let yourself get excited, bang, you lose. If you mess up, he's ready to get on you."
Westbrook, twice a member of the U.S. Olympic team, fell behind, 6-4, but he managed to keep his composure long enough to win.
After the match, Westbrook was anything but calm.
"It was tough," said Westbrook, a native of New York. "When it was 6-4, I said to myself that I might lose and I started to get excited. But I didn't want that. I decided to be real calm and things turned out okay."
Westbrook and Orban train at the New York Athletic Club and are coached by 68-year-old Csaba Elthes, so their meeting here was nothing new. They have met more than 50 times in competition.
After trailing, 6-4, Westbrook scored five of the next six touches and led, 9-7. He was much fresher and quicker than his opponent at the end.
"I just ran out of steam," said Orban, a five-time winner of the event. "I haven't had a chance to train this year. I'm semiretired and I compete mostly for pleasure.
"When it was 6-4, I was thinking about running out of gas. I wished it was over at that point. There was too much strain."
Westbrook's victory solidifies his claim as the nation's premier fencer. He earlier had taken over that role from Orban, a member of the past four U.S. Olympic teams and of the 1975 U.S. Pan American team.
"My goal is still, believe it or not, to get better and better," Westbrook said. "People who are complacent with six national championships never get better. I've never won the world championship, so I have to improve."
Coming off his greatest performance in April, when he was the only American in the finals of the New York International, Westbrook relaxed in the preliminary rounds here and was seeded third entering the finals. He defeated Steve Mormando of New York, 10-7, in the quarterfinals and beat Joel Glucksman of New York, 10-6, in the semifinals.
Orban advanced to the final by defeating Stan Lekach of New York, 10-5 and Edgar House of New York, 10-7. House won third place with a 10-8 victory over Glucksman.