Introduced to the university by Dr. Gerald Cetrulo in 1937, the Seton hall fencing program quickly carved out its own venerable spot in the annals of Seton Hall athletics. Under the tutelage of Dr. Cetrulo, the Pirates parried their way to national prominence, achieving a level of success that rivals that of any other program in the university's illustrious history.
Aided by the standout efforts of Dr. Cetrulo's younger brother and fellow Seton Hall Athletics Hall of Fame member, Dean, SHU exploded onto the intercollegiate fencing scene. In 1937-38, the program's first season of competition, the Pirates posted an unblemished 16-0 record and took home the Eastern Intercollegiate Conference crown. The team continued its winning ways the next year, winning all 17 matches on its way to a second-consecutive conference title.
As the 1939-40 season approached, the Pirates were primed to make an impact on the national stage. Following 11 more wins and a third-straight conference championship, the Pirates found themselves with a spot in the national semifinals and a chance to become the top team in the nation in just their third year of existence. On March 20, 1940, Seton hall defeated both the University of North Carolina (19.5-7.5) and modern day BIG EAST foe Notre Dame (8-1) to take home the National Intercollegiate fencing championship. The following year, the Pirates came out on top in all 15 of their matches on their way to successfully defending their distinction as the nation's top team.
In all, the Seton hall fencing team compiled more than 70-consecutive wins from 1938-43 before suffering a loss, sending a clear message to fencing programs across America that they had better be "en garde."
In the early 1940's, SHU produced a number of fencers who triumphed on both a conference and national level, completing their careers with their own gaudy records. However, during the initial run of perfection, Dean Cetrulo established himself as one of the most prolific fencers in collegiate history. As a Pirate, Cetrulo was undefeated in both the foil and the sabre in his career. An All-American selection, Cetrulo came out on top in a staggering 96-consecutive bouts, a feat that has been called, "arguably the greatest achievement in the history of the collegiate sport of fencing." The former SHU star went on to earn a spot in the United States Fencing Hall of Fame after capturing three U.S. National Championships and helping the United States fencing squad to a bronze medal in the 1948 Olympics.
Another figure at the head of Seton Hall fencing's early success was Harry T. Boutsikaris. Boutsikaris, who captured individual Eastern Intercollegiate titles in the foil and the sabre in 1942, returned as head coach in the late 1960's and promptly led a revival of the program.
In 1971-72, the Pirates battled their way to a 10-0 record, finishing the year by placing 18th out of 150 schools at the national tournament. After another 10-0 season in 1972-73, another Boutsikaris, Thomas, became the second Pirate in as many years to place eighth nationally as an individual in the foil. Following a 16th place team finish at nationals in 1973-74, Thomas led the Pirates to an 11th place finish the following year. It was the program's best finish in the modern era, and Boutsikaris earned All-America honors for the second-consecutive season. In each of these years, the Pirates were crowned North Atlantic Intercollegiate Conference Champions.
The Boutsikaris family played a large role in the resurgence of the SHU fencing program. In his All-American career, Thomas compiled a record of 113-3 that included a streak of over 70-consecutive victories. Gregory Boutsikaris finished his time in South Orange with a 124-20 record and was part of three conference championship teams. Both were inducted into the school's athletics Hall of Fame in the early 1980's.
Harry Boutsikaris went on to guide the squad to continued success over the next two decades. In 1989, he was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Seton Hall Athletics Department in recognition of his contributions to the fencing program and university.