Pioneers Host Second Home Fencing Tournament

The Pioneers faced tough competition and medaled in each event.


The Pioneer Fencers had a home tournament this weekend, our second for the season. The event was a Division II event, meaning fencers who are rated C and below could participate. We had almost all the returning fencers involved, sans the teammates involved in the fall play. A big thank you to all the fencers who helped set up the Memorial Gym on Saturday after helping with the beginners and their first event for the season. 

The beginners, after two weeks of lessons, had their first weekend event. Last week, they participated in a mock fencing competition. All the fencers participated in a table tennis tournament using the structure of a fencing tournament. Everyone was put into three pools where they played matches of five points and then were seeded in an elimination round. The beginners showed no fear of their opponents and emerged with three of the top four finalists. This Saturday, the beginners were put into a pool where they fenced each other using the electrical scoring system. The advanced fencers supported the new team members by coaching and refereeing the event. 

After the beginners were finished, the advanced fencers helped set up the Memorial Gym for the tournament the following day. Our second home event of the year, this tournament was set to be one of the stronger local events in the division. Fencers from northeast Michigan to Pittsburgh and Columbus were traveling to WRA to compete. 

The epee event started the day with senior captain Obafemi Osunmakinde, juniors Mingzheng (Josh) Li and Ava Palfi, and freshmen Yunwoo Choi and Tessa Lavi fencing. Oba and Yunwoo were in the same pool in the first round where they faced fencers from Hooked On Fencing (a local epee stronghold), On Target Fencing Club (Coach Nagy’s club), and Shaker Heights. Yunwoo won one bout and scored on everyone else except for Oba. Oba came away with three wins and two losses for the pool. Tessa and Ava were together in another pool with fencers from HOF and Cleveland State University. Each came away with one win and scored points in all their bouts. Josh was in a pool with fencers from HOF and Cyrano’s Place (Lakewood, OH). He finished with one win and points scored in all his other bouts. 

At the end of the first round, Oba was seeded 6th, Josh 11th, Tessa 12th, Ava 15th, and Yunwoo 16th. The first bout was Yunwoo versus the 17th seed from HOF. Yunwoo had a victorious first bout, earning him a varsity letter for the season. His next bout was against the number 1 seed where he fell 6 - 15. For a first year student, earning a varsity letter is notable. Tessa earned a bye in the first round and had to fence the fifth seed to advance. Tessa struggled to find her attacks and fell 6 - 15. The next bout put Oba against Josh. Oba defeated Josh 15 - 10 in a dynamic bout with exchanges of attacks. Ava also earned a bye into the round of 16 and had to fence the number 2 seed, an E rated fencer from HOF. Ava lost 7 - 15. Oba’s next opponent was a fencer from his pool and another left hander. This opponent defeated Oba in the pool so he talked over a plan for the bout. Oba controlled the distance in the bout and made some fantastic touches to win 15 - 13. Now in the semi-final, he had to fence another young man from HOF who had just defeated the number 2 seed. Oba came out with some strong picks to the arm and again controlled the distance in the bout to defeat his opponent 15 - 10. In the final, Oba and his opponent (also from HOF) were pretty even in the first three minute period. They were both tall, had a long reach, and left handed. The bout stayed close with many double-touches scored. Oba again pulled some amazing arm touches that pulled him ahead to a 15-12 victory and earned him his D-2022 national rating. 

The foil event started just as the epee tournament was coming to an end. Sophomores Riya Hegde and Sehar Mahesh, juniors Cavin Xue and Ganza Karamaga, and senior Kirill Zherebtcov were competing for the Pioneers.

Riya was in a pool with fencers from Ann Arbor, Columbus, Pittsburgh, and Shaker Heights. She defeated both the other girls in her pool and emerged from the first round with a 15th seed. Sehar shared a pool with Kirill where they fenced against competitors from Ann Arbor, Lakewood, Bay City MI, Medina, and Pittsburgh. Sehar had a rough pool in her first tournament of the winter season and earned a 19 seed going into elimination. Kirill won four of his six bouts and earned a 7th seed. Cavin and Ganza shared a pool where they fenced against people from Lakewood, Pittsburgh, Bay City, and Detroit. Cavin had a rough set of bouts and earned the 20th seed. Ganza lost by one touch to the fencer who won the pool and had only one victory to come out at the 16th seed. 

In the elimination round, Ganza fenced first against a fencer from Columbus. The bout was close for the duration of two of the three periods and Ganza came away with the win at 15 -13. His next bout was against the number 1 seed where he lost 6 - 15. Cavin had a difficult time with his elimination bout and pulled off one touch before the bout was over. Sehar had to fence a young woman from Detroit whose star is on the rise in regional events. Sehar put up a good fight but could not stop her opponent. Riya had to fence an opponent from Shaker Heights, a rated fencer, and one who went back and forth with Isabella Folio last year. Riya struggled to control the distance but when she maintained her balance she put fantastic attacks into place that earned her a victory and her varsity letter. Her next bout was against the number 2 seed where she came up with good points but could not stop his quick attacks. Kirill had a bye out of the round of 32 and had to fence someone from Pittsburgh. Kirill took some time to control the distance and once he did, the bout was his at 15 - 12. His next bout was against the number 2 seed. This young man was determined to earn a higher rating today, and his strong pool finish put him on track to accomplish his goal. Kirill, however, had a different plan. Kirill, now more in control of his feet, improved the control of his point to come away with a 15 - 8 victory. Now in the semi-final, Kirill had to fence a young man from Detroit. The bout was close with Kirill’s opponent using his smaller size to break the distance and get inside Kirill’s reach. Kirill was ahead and then his opponent increased the tempo to even the score and defeat Kirill 12 - 15. 

The sabre event was small, with fencers only from Reserve and Cleveland Fencing Academy. Junior Gaowading (Ethan) Tan and sophomore Chun (Joey) Chan competed. Two of the three fencers from CFA were coaches there and put our young men at an apparent disadvantage. In the pool, Joey beat one of the CFA coaches and almost defeated their primary student. Ethan won all of his bouts except for the bout against the younger coach. In the elimination round, Joey advanced past the elder CFA coach to fence the younger coach. The more experienced fencer pulled ahead quickly and Joey finished 3rd. Ethan had to fence the student from CFA, a young man who defeated Ethan in an earlier tournament by a close score. Today, Ethan won with a convincing 15 - 6 score to move into the final. There he faced the younger CFA coach who pulled an early lead before Ethan rallied six points in a row before falling 15 - 9. 

In all, the Pioneer fencing team medaled in each event, came away with one national rating, and awarded two varsity letters to young team members. Please be sure to congratulate the fencers on their hard work and outstanding performance.