Courtesy of Ohio State Athletic Department
Imagine that one day you receive a phone call from Ohio State football legend Archie Griffin and he offers you a coaching job at OSU.
After hearing Griffin out, you respectively decline his offer because you don’t think you’re ready for the job.
This was the reality for fencing coach Vladimir Nazlymov in 1999 while working in Kansas City, Mo., as the fencing coach for the school district.
“I said, ‘I’m not ready for this,'” Nazlymov said. “I didn’t know who he was.”
Nazlymov said he received a phone call from the director of the Kansas City sports commission immediately after declining Griffin’s offer.
“He called me and asked why I told Archie no,” Nazlymov said. “He told me I couldn’t say no to Archie.”
On this advice, Nazlymov decided to come to OSU to tour the facilities and find out if the job was right for him.
After the tour, Griffin asked Nazlymov what they needed to do to make the fencing program one of the top three in the country, Nazlymov said.
“I asked ‘Why top three?'” Nazlymov said. “Why not win?”
Nazlymov said he told Griffin he could turn the program around in three years.
“I said three years was enough. Of course he didn’t believe me,” Nazlymov said.
Nazlymov said he was confident if he came to OSU, he would be able to recruit strong coaches and the best fencers would follow.
He said he told Griffin if he didn’t turn the program around in three years, Griffin could fire him.
Fast forward to 2012 and Nazlymov has more than fulfilled his promise to turn the fencing program around at OSU.
Under Nazlymov’s guidance, the program is now in its 10th consecutive season among the nation’s top five-ranked programs. This is Nazlymov’s 13th season as coach of the fencing program.
Prior to the start of this season, he had compiled a combined men and women’s record of 414-97. He added National Championships to his resume in 2004 and 2008.
Nazlymov’s road to fencing greatness began almost by accident.
As a young child growing up in what was then the Soviet Union, Nazlymov described himself as being “not a nice kid.” He said he was constantly getting into trouble.
After one particular incident in which Nazlymov almost lost sight in one eye, he said he saw an announcement for fencing and went from there.
Nazlymov’s fencing career took off from there and he eventually found himself on the Soviet Union Military Fencing Team.
He said this team had “the best coaches, best facilities.”
“Army is army. They have everything,” he said.
On the individual level, Nazlymov, who has six Olympic medals including three golds, was named the world’s best fencer by the International Fencing Federation twice. He became coach of the Soviet Union Military Fencing Team in 1976 and remained coach until 1990. He came to the United States in 1991.
It was during his time with the Soviet Union Military Fencing Team that Nazlymov’s winning attitude was instilled, he said.
“For many years I worked in the Soviet Union,” he said. “I couldn’t be second.”
He joked that his superior in the army might have sent him to Siberia if he had gotten second place.
Once again, Nazlymov said he has high hopes for his team this season.
Last season the men and women’s teams combined for a fifth place finish at the NCAA championships.
Nazlymov said that last year the team was “terrible.”
“This season, I hope for sure we are better,” he said.
Senior saberist Max Stearns echoed his coach’s sentiments.
“Even before the season started we have one of the most complete teams in the NCAA, I think across all weapons and genders,” Stearns said. “Expectations on the team are very high; we’re working towards bringing back a championship.”
After the men and women went a combined 13-0 at the Northwestern Duals Feb. 4, the teams now have a combined record of 33-2.
“I don’t want to be second,” Nazlymov said.
The team will continue their season Feb. 26 at the US Collegiate Championships in New York, N.Y.
The office of Archie Griffin at the OSU Alumni Association did not immediately respond to The Lantern’s request for comment.