Greenleaf a Star on the Strip for Guilford Fencing
Guilford senior Paul Greenleaf is one of the most recent area athletes to commit to college for a team sport, but it wasn’t for football, basketball, baseball, or even hockey. Paul earned a scholarship from DIII school, Drew University, in Madison, New Jersey, for fencing, after having a standout career at Guilford High School.
Fencing is a sport that requires a lot of precision, focus, and skill, and Paul has utilized all of those attributes to shine on the strip for the Grizzlies as part of the foil squad.
“Paul consistently goes above and beyond when it comes to both actively fencing and supporting his teammates,” says Guilford fencing Head Coach Ben Kissinger. “Paul has made continuous improvements in his fencing and leadership skills, becoming more respected among his peers in the foil squad, and on the team overall.”
For Paul, it is not just about the individual accolades he achieves as a fencer, but rather the desire to help his teammates grow, and put them in the best place they can to succeed.
“It really does mean a lot to me,” says Paul. “I work very hard not only to improve myself in the sport, but also to help mentor my teammates, encouraging them to be the best that they can be. It is very encouraging and heartwarming to know that I am being recognized by my coaches, who work very hard to give us a fun and successful season.”
The experienced foilist brings his knowledge with him in every practice. He acknowledges and teaches his teammates about proper protocol when it comes to the equipment, and shows them best practices for improving their craft.
“At practice, it is apparent that the other foilists look up to and respect Paul,” says Kissinger. “As a squad leader, he runs drills and makes sure that the group stays on track for the practice. He is also knowledgeable on equipment repair and armoury, and has been seen teaching his teammates how to diagnose problems with their electrical equipment.”
Earning a college scholarship in fencing is no easy feat, as many athletes don’t make it to the level of mastering their skills to set themselves up for success. That’s why when Paul earned his opportunity, Kissinger and the rest of the Guilford coaching staff were ecstatic and excited for him.
“When we heard the news, we were so proud,” Kissinger says. “He is going to do great there, and we are so excited to hear of his fencing stories when he comes back to visit for home meets.”
The ambitious Paul began the college process himself. He started reaching out to schools via email about an opportunity to further his fencing career. He then scheduled to meet with the coaches at the yearly Summer Nationals in Phoenix, as many of them were attending with their fencers.
One of the teams in attendance that Paul met with was Drew University. After meeting with the fencing coach, Joseph Zanco, Paul felt like Drew was a place he could envision himself.
After visiting the school and spending time on campus, Paul knew he had found the right fit and was confident in his decision to attend. However, before he goes off to college, Paul has a tall task at hand, and that is to finish his final winter with the Grizzlies on a high note.
This season, Paul has helped lead the Guilford men’s foil team to 10 wins out of 11 meetings. Individually, he’s won 43-of-45 bouts, and has also medaled in the individual state championship the last two years.
Additionally, Paul has had the opportunity to qualify for and fence in the Junior Olympics and Summer Nationals several times, and has fenced against some of the best fencers in the country. He’s completing his studies to be an official USA Fencing referee.
Paul began fencing in third grade, because he wanted to pick up a different sport other than basketball or soccer. He was drawn to the specific craft and skill involved in fencing, and worked tirelessly over the years to improve and grow with it.
Little did Paul know, fencing would quickly become his No. 1 passion.
He would go to fencing practice once a week from third-sixth grade, before he started to practice twice a week starting in seventh grade. His love for the sport was discovered in eighth grade, once he started competing in tournaments. As a high schooler, the love for the sport grew once he started competing at a national level.
“I love how fencing is a combination of so many different aspects that work together, for example, to have good point control, footwork, fast decision-making, and good stamina,” Paul says. “Not many sports are so dependent on all of these aspects, and it makes fencing so much more challenging.”