Upsets Abound at Moot Court National Tournament

Surprising finishes for students from The College of Wooster

30 January, 2014 by John Finn

WOOSTER, Ohio — A series of upsets — both favorable and unfavorable — characterized The College of Wooster's experience at the American Collegiate Moot Court National Championship Tournament Jan. 17-18 at Arizona State University's Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law.

Wooster's Abigail Helvering and Daniel Cohen, a sophomore and senior, respectively, engineered what may have been the biggest surprise of the weekend when they vaulted from the 20th seed after Day 1 all the way to a team-best Final Four finish, losing to the eventual national champions. "Abby and Daniel pulled off upsets throughout the Round of 32, Sweet 16 and Elite Eight," said John Rudisill, associate professor of philosophy and assistant coach of Wooster's Moot Court team. "While Daniel is in his last year (of moot court competition), Abby just finished her first year, so her undergraduate moot court future is very bright."

The performance by Helvering and Cohen was not the only unexpected outcome of the weekend. Wooster also found itself on the other side of several upsets, which prevented some of its more experienced competitors from advancing as far as they had hoped. On the first day, however, Wooster was superb with five teams placing in the Top 20 (out of 80 national qualifying partnerships) with a combined ballot record of 26-3-1 from the two-panel judges in each of the three day-one rounds. "We were pretty dominant on the first day with two of our partnerships not losing a single ballot and three partnerships each losing just one ballot apiece." said Rudisill, "but we had a number of tough second-day, elimination round match-ups."

Finishing behind Helvering and Cohen for Wooster were sophomore Benjamin Taylor and senior Janet Zahorsky, who made it to the Elite Eight, but no one else was able to advance beyond the Round of 32, including seniors Erica Rickey and Rachel Myers, who were seeded first after the opening day.

Also competing for Wooster were the teams of junior Luke Tonat and senior Tyler Hoff, and junior Alexi Ehrlich and senior Andrea Patton, both of which advanced to the Round of 32, but lost to stiff competition in that round. Patton further distinguished herself by placing fourth in the nation among the top individual orators. She was joined by Helvering, who was 15th, and Cohen, who was 18th.

Perhaps the most disappointing outcome for Wooster was the finish of seniors Mae Manupipatpong and Eric Petry, who led the way for most of the season, but, according to Rudisill, ran into a "buzz saw" on day one at the national tournament and failed to make it into the second day elimination rounds.

Overall Rudisill was pleased with the team's performance and optimistic about Wooster's prospects for the future. "We had a fantastic crop of seniors — easily one of top senior cohorts in terms of talent and leadership that we have ever had in the program — and we are very sorry to see them go," he said, "but we also have a lot of promise for the future."