Fencing Team Travels for Another Packed Weekend
Joey Randazzo

On Saturday, part of the team went to Denison University to fence their Open tournament and on Sunday another part of the team went to Pittsburgh Fencing Center for their D and Under Mixed Foil and E & Under Women’s Foil. 

It was another busy weekend for the Pioneer fencing team! On Saturday, part of the team went to Denison University to fence their Open tournament and on Sunday another part of the team went to Pittsburgh Fencing Center for their D and Under Mixed Foil and E & Under Women’s Foil. 

The team on Saturday consisted of Seniors Kirill Zherebtcov and Obafemi Osunmakinde, Junior Ava Palfi, Sophomore Joey Chan, and Freshman Tessa Lavi. Oba fenced the open Men’s Epee event where he faced opponents from Cleveland State, Denison University, and other regional clubs. Oba had an A and two C rated fencers in his pool. Since Oba earned his D rating last month he has been competing in the stronger open tournaments rather than the events where the ratings are restricted to C and Under or D and Under. Oba put up a strong fight in each bout, putting points on the A rated fencer and almost beating the C rated fencer. Oba came out of pools seeded 22 and had to fence the 11th seed, a C rated fencer with many more years of experience. Oba fenced hard but could not come away with the win. His approached coach Neil Mittal after the bout to compliment Oba’s fencing. 

Ava and Tessa fenced the Women’s epee event that afternoon. Ava came away with two victories out of her pool, putting 3 points on one of the fencers from Denison. She was more assertive in her bouts after getting a good sense of the college tournaments from her experience at Wayne State. Tessa was fencing her first open event. Normally we would wait for her to get some more tournaments under her belt; however, the opportunity for her to fence a women’s only event was too compelling. She pulled out two wins in her pool, so pretty impressive for her first open event! Unfortunately, with Ava’s two wins and Tessa’s two wins, they ended up 16th and 17th in the seeding and had to fence each other to advance into the next round. Here, Ava’s experience came into play where she pulled ahead of Tessa for the win. Ava’s next opponent was now the number one seeded fencer, and one of her losses from the pool. Ava’s opponent did not take her lightly and kept the openings closed off from Ava’s attacks. Ava and Tessa finished where they were seeded, 16th and 17th respectively. 

Joey was fencing his second open event (the first being the Wayne State Open). The opportunities for Sabre fencing in Northern Ohio are scant so we have to take our sabre squad of Ethan Tan '24 and Joey Chan to the surrounding areas to find good sabre events. Joey pulled out one victory in his pool. He was seeded 21st and had to fence one of the Cleveland State University students. Joey pulled out some decent touches but struggled against the more experienced opponent. He finished 22nd.

Kirill Zherebtcov '23 started the day with Men’s Foil. His pool had two B rated fencers and another D rated fencer along with two unrated fencers. Kirill defeated both B’s and the other D. He lost one bout to an unrated fencer from Denison University and defeated the other. With a 4-1 record, he pulled an impressive 9th seed in the event. His first elimination bout was against one of the opponents from his pool. One of the Denison University students who lost to Kirill, our Pioneer had a strong starting position before the bout started. He kept the bout pretty one sided with clean and simple attacks that evaded his opponent’s attempts at a defense. Kirill walked away with a 15 - 4 win. His next opponent was also from his pool, a young man from Columbus who has been frustrating Kirill since last year. Kirill had a commanding lead when his opponent turned up the speed and mounted a major comeback. Somewhere around 11 - 11 the two started trading touches. The time for the bout expired with a tied score of 14 - 14. At this point in a bout, the referee tosses a coin to choose priority for one fencer. If no point is scored in that minute, the fencer with priority wins, otherwise whoever scores the next point wins. The two went back and forth for about 30 seconds trading attacks when Allen (Kirill’s opponent) attempted an attack and Kirill closed him out with with a stop hit and a parry that blocked any follow through. It was an exciting moment for Kirill to pull out into the quarter finals at this event. His next opponent was a fencer from Columbus who coach Mittal has known since he was a young teenager and fencing in El Paso, Texas. Today, that fencer, Matthew Wojciechowski, who is a B rated fencer, was the number one seed in the tournament and about to face Kirill. Harry Hardaman, a student from Cleveland State University, offered Kirill some advice for which we were grateful. Kirill caught quick touches early with great distance and timing. Matthew pulled on his experience to stay in the game but never caught Kirill’s lead. Though the official score was 15 - 11 for Kirill, it never felt close. Matthew was very gracious at the end and complimented Kirill for his excellent fencing. Kirill was now in the semi-final against a B rated fencer and Cleveland State’s top fencer for the day, Connor Shepard. Kirill was spent after the last bout and knew that any outcome from here in the tournament would be icing on the cake for his accomplishments. He put up a strong fight but fell 9 - 15. By taking 3rd and earning his C in foil, Kirill has the best finish in an open event for WRA in the last nine years and has earned the highest rating in fencing of which we have a record. 

That night we roamed the town at the base of the Denison University campus to experience their Christmas celebration before returning home.

On Sunday we loaded the van with our foil fencers consisting of Junior Ganza Karamaga and Sophomores Ethan Apanasewicz, Riya Hegde, and Sehar Mahesh. We drove to Pittsburgh Fencer’s Club for their D and Under Foil mixed event and the E and Under Women’s Foil event. This was a great opportunity for the WRA fencers because Pittsburgh has six schools in the city that offer fencing and they have a healthy high school conference. Ganza, Ethan, and Riya competed in the Mixed event to start the day. Ganza came up with three victories and two losses in his pool. Ganza uses a very contemporary fencing style and his referee was pretty traditional. As a result, Ganza had to adjust to his referee more than he had to adjust to his opponents. Ganza came out of the pools with a 7th seed. Riya won four and lost one bout in her pool. She was launching strong attacks and showing improvement even from the event at WRA a few weeks ago where she also fenced well. She came up with a 4th seed out of pools. Ethan also won four and lost one in his pool. Ethan and Riya both won four bouts, and coincidentally both scored 23 points on their opponents overall. Ethan only allowed 8 total points lost in the pool where Riya had 14 points lost. Ethan came up with the second seed in the tournament after pools. Riya had a bye out of the first round in elimination to face an opponent she defeated in her pool. She used many of the same attacks and easily won the bout 15 - 5. We expected her to face the number 5 seed; however he was upset by the number 11 seed and our initial plan had to be scrapped to deal with a much taller, left handed opponent. Riya tried to adapt but could not alter her plan in time to come up with a win. She immediately went from her bout into the Women’s Foil pool. Ganza had to face an opponent from his pool that he defeated but he had the same referee from his pool. Ganza adjusted to making simple and direct attacks to close the bout 15 - 8. Ethan’s first bout was against an opponent from PFC. Ethan was very efficient with his scoring and at the first break was up 10 - 0. We discussed showing some grace before closing the bout, which he did 15 - 2. As Ethan was seeded 2nd and Ganza 7th, the two teammates had to fence each other in the quarterfinal. Ethan had an 11 - 3 lead at one point when Ganza started to catch up. The point differential being so great, Ethan closed the bout 15 - 12. Ethan now had to face the number 3 seed from the Upper Saint Claire Fencing Club. Ethan followed the adage “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” and did the same action fifteen times to win the bout 15 - 4. He kept control of the distance and his opponent could not get past Ethan’s parry - riposte. Ethan was now in the final against Max Kaplan from PFC. Max’s team was behind him to cheer him on. Ethan made a plan to start the bout. Ethan took over the first period with attacks, parry-riposte actions, and infighting. During the first period, Max was caught covering target with his unarmed hand, a Yellow Card offense. The second period had Ethan continuing to score and pull ahead, but his energy was waning.  During the third period, Ethan was clearly fatigued and Max caught on. He launched a steady comeback of well timed attacks on Ethan. Ethan did not get flustered between touches - he nodded his head understanding how his opponent scored. As the third period closed, the score was tied 9 - 9. At the coin toss, Ethan won. This meant he could expect attacks from his opponent to close the bout. Ethan kept a strong defense and did not allow Max to score. With 26 second remaining, the two fencers ended up in an infighting phrase where Max unfortunately covered his target again and was hit with a Red Card which resulted in a touch for Ethan and a victory in the bout. Ethan won his first gold medal and also earned his E rating. 

Riya and Sehar had started their pools for Women’s foil while Ethan and Ganza were fencing. Sehar, in her second tournament this season, came up with two wins and three losses to start. She was getting used to fencers she did not know and had to adapt to. Riya, still hot from her bouts in the Mixed event, went undefeated in the pool and allowed only 7 points against her to earn the number 1 seed. Sehar came up with the number 6 seed. Sehar had to fence someone from Riya’s pool so Riya gave her all the advice she would need. Sehar turned up the speed and the attacks to decisively win 15 - 7. Her next bout was against someone from her pool who Sehar lost to. Sehar caught onto the girl’s defense and evaded her opponent’s parries to again have a decisive win of 15 - 8. All of the competitors in the event were high school fencers but one. Mary Theirault is a Vet 70 fencer who was competing with the other women. Mary has over 35 years of experience and was able to out think her younger opponents in the pools to stay undefeated. Sehar put three quick touches on Mary, but her youth also brings impatience, which her opponent took advantage of to even up the score. The two traded points throughout all three periods. Sehar was down 14 - 11 in the last period when she came up with two fantastic attacks to climb to 13 - 14. With time running out, she had to attack again but this time Mary was waiting and closed the bout 15 - 13. 

Riya had a bye out of the first round and came up with decisive wins against an opponent from the Upper Saint Claire program and then against an opponent from PFC. Now in the final, she faced Mary Theirault. Riya made a plan based on her observations of the bout Mary had with Sehar to gain an early lead. At the end of the first period Riya was ahead 10 - 5 and could have run down the clock to win the bout; however, Riya is way too enthusiastic to do that. She kept up the attacks and had some even more impressive parry - riposte actions to win the bout 15 - 8. Riya won her first gold medal for the year and also earned her E rating. With Sehar’s victories in the elimination round she earned 3rd in the Women’s event and her varsity letter. 

Please congratulate the fencers when you see them this week and when we return in January.