U-M Debate Team finishes runner-up in National Debate Tournament

April 1, 2021
Written By:
Jared Wadley
Zoom screenshot of Giorgio Rabbini and Rafael Pierry.

Giorgio Rabbini and Rafael Pierry.

For the fifth time in its history, the University of Michigan Debate Team earned second place at the 75th annual National Debate Tournament.

The Harvard Debate Council sponsored the five-day tournament, held virtually due to pandemic restrictions, March 26-30. Seventy-eight teams with 156 competitors from 44 institutions participated.

The U-M team of Giorgio Rabbini (a sophomore 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.

Prior to the finals, Michigan’s verbal duo defeated teams from the University of Kansas, Wake Forest University, Harvard University, University of Iowa and University of California, Berkeley.

For two other U-M teams, Brandon Stras and Kelly Phil reached the Elite Eight quarterfinals and Jeremy Margolin and Ethan Muse reached the elimination rounds of 32. Michigan was one of only four schools (Wake Forest, Dartmouth and Kansas) to have all three of their debate teams reach the elimination rounds.

“I am thrilled with the debate team’s performance at the 2021 National Debate Tournament, especially given all the unique and unprecedented circumstances our students have navigated this year,” said debate director Aaron Kall. “Given the results of all our three teams, I can say without a doubt this is the team’s best-ever performance at the college debate national championship.”

Pierry and Rabinni, who came into the tournament ranked No. 2 behind Dartmouth, had won tournaments hosted by Northwestern University and Wake Forest in the 2020-21 season.

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 in 1989, 1991, 2014 and 2015. They made it eight other times to the Final Four: 1988, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2008, 2011, 2016 and 2018.