University of Michigan: U-M Debate Team finishes runner-up in National Debate Tournament

For the sixth time in its history, the University of Michigan Debate Team earned second place at the collegiate National Debate Tournament.

James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, hosted the 76th annual tournament April 1-4. Seventy-eight teams with 156 competitors from 49 institutions participated.

U-M’s team of Giorgio Rabbini, a junior from Parkland, Florida, majoring in political science and Afroamerican and African studies, and Rafael Pierry, a junior from Monta Vista, California, majoring in political science, lost to Dartmouth College in the final round of the tournament on a 3-2 decision.

Prior to the finals, Michigan’s verbal duo defeated teams in the elimination rounds from the University of Texas; University of California, Berkeley; and University of Kansas.

For two other U-M teams, Kelly Phil and Kelly Skoulikaris reached the Sweet Sixteen and Joshua Harrington and Ben McGraw reached the elimination rounds of 32. U-M was one of four schools—Emory University, Harvard University and Kansas—to have all three of their debate teams reach the elimination rounds.

Pierry and Rabbini, who ended the season with a 78-6 record, also received the Rex Copeland Memorial Award, given to the top-ranked collegiate debate team in the country at the conclusion of the 2021-2022 regular season. The debate team previously finished the regular season ranked No. 1 in the country in 1997.

Michigan’s Debate Team, which began in 1903, is one of the oldest debate programs in the United States. The program has come close to winning the national title by reaching the tournament finals five other times in 1989, 1991, 2014, 2015 and 2021. They made it to the Final Four eight times: 1988, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2008, 2011, 2016 and 2018.

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