March 29, 2016

Fencing team looks to foil competition at regionals

Inside the Woodling Gym, student athletes are stretching as if this were a track and field practice.

“Ok, Everyone on the baseline!” yells James Fazekas, head coach of the Cleveland State Fencing Team.

The team hustles to the baseline of the gym and lines up in anticipation of the next warm-up drill.

“I want you to run to the beginning of the [Vikings] logo, walk the logo, and then run to the other baseline,” says Fazekas. The students perform the drill as a perfect microcosm of fencing, periods of slow with bursts of speed in between.

The Cleveland State Fencing team is preparing for the NCAA Midwest Regional Tournament in Columbus, OH, for which Cleveland State will send nine members to compete in what has been a very successful season.

“We have been having a very good season with a good, strong team,” Michael Schloemer, captain of the team, said.

Schloemer was a walk-on to the team and had never fenced before college.

“I always thought it was cool, I mean, who doesn’t love the idea of playing with swords?” Schloemer said.

The backgrounds of the team members range from walk-ons that had only seen fencing every four years in the Olympics, to members who have fenced since they were young.

“I started fencing around fifth grade, when I started losing focus in ballet and family friends suggested that I try fencing,” explained Sarah Mok, a sophomore fencer.

Mok, who qualified for NCAA Midwest, sees fencing as not only an individual sport but also as a team sport.

“You can definitely feel the team aspect when you are competing,” she said, “Not only do I get a victory for myself, but I also get a victory for my team. It drives you to do better.”

As the team members finish their stretching and drills, they grab their foils and protective equipment and begin to duel with others in preparation of the upcoming tournament. One of the fencers practicing is Paul Duchow, who qualified for the NCAA Fencing National Championship in 2014 and is attempting to make it back in 2016.

“The way I learned to fence is by going to a lot of tournaments as a teenager and fence people who are better than you,” Duchow said. “It makes you constantly think about what they are doing and what you can do to get better, and if you pass the person you are fencing, you look for the next person.”

Duchow, who is a senior at Cleveland State, will represent the Vikings in the épée — a style where the entire body is a valid target area — in Columbus, the same style that qualified him for nationals in 2014.

“Making it was awesome, but the road to get here was even better,” Duchow said. “I knew the season had been a disappointment for me so far and the only way to get to nationals was if I swept [the tournament.] I came in fourth and qualified for nationals.”

Duchow will be going into regionals with more confidence.

“I know what is there in my fourth year and I know what it is going to take to win,” he said.

In the practice and in matches, no matter who wins or loses, every match ends with both competitors taking off their masks and shaking the hands of their opponents as a sign of mutual respect for the competitors. The Vikings seem to be hopeful that they will be on the winning end of that handshake often at regionals.


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