Grizzlies Fencing Excited to Build on State Championship Season
The Guilford Grizzlies co-ed fencing team began practicing this month, with their first official tournament slated to start on Friday, Dec. 16. The 57-fencer team is coached by Tara Bowers and assisted by Jeremy Goun and Mark Kissinger.
The sport of fencing has three disciplines: the épée, foil, and saber, that each consist of different weapons or swords, as well as different scoring areas on the torso covered by the lamé, facemask, and the entire body of the opponent.
Last year, after recording an undefeated regular season stand, the Grizzlies took home the team State Championship on both the men’s and women’s sides. Coach Bowers looks forward to what the team can accomplish this upcoming season, hoping they can maintain the same level of dominance.
“Every year, my goal is to keep Guilford as one of the top programs in the state,” said Bowers. “That means giving the top players opportunities to grow, as well as building up the underclassmen as fencers and leaders to continue the winning tradition that Guilford has.”
This year’s team consists of 6 captains on the 57-athlete squad, including Shivai Kumar (saber), Joy Qiang (saber), Max Banning (épée), Riley Weed (épée), Ryan Lynch (foil), and Taylor Smith (foil).
“I am so thankful for their leadership and commitment,” said Bowers on the captains. “A lot of our new fencers are coming in with a little more knowledge than in past years. I’m sure that investment will pay off with the novice fencers this year.”
In addition to the team’s preseason training and practice, one fencer led a clinic last year to teach boys and girls in middle school the sport of fencing.
“Last year, Shivai Kumar spearheaded a clinic at Adams Middle School to introduce 7th and 8th graders to the sport of fencing. Thanks to that, a lot of our new fencers are coming in with a little more knowledge than in past years,” said Bowers.
The Grizzlies have seen a lot of success over the years. They have a stacked overall program record, having won five overall men’s team championships, seven overall women’s championships, as well as 60 combined individual and team championships in the foil, épée, and saber.
Hoping to continue to build on that legacy that has been created, Guilford will use the month of December to work on their conditioning and fencing skills. In the early weeks of the month, their time is spent helping new fencers learn the sport.
There are several fencers to look out for this season, including nationally-ranked athletes freshman Ella Greenleaf and sophomore Catherine Zhou. Junior Paul Greenleaf has also competed at the national level in the offseason.
Paul claimed titles in the men’s foil last year for the Central Connecticut Fencing championships (CCFC) as well as for the Connecticut Individual State Tournament.
Sophomore Catherine Zhou was the individual state champion last year for the women’s foil, and senior Melek Top took the title for the women’s épée. Senior captain Joy Qiang placed second in the women’s saber and looks to place first in the upcoming season.
“We’ve had a lot of fencers working hard in the offseason and improving their game. The women’s team has a lot of young talent,” said Bowers. “The men’s épée team graduated seven seniors last year, however, our current senior captain Max Banning is ready to pick up where they left off.”
More notable fencers include men’s saber Shivai Kumar and Jason Li, who finished first overall in the boy’s saber last year in the Connecticut State Tournament. Senior Ryan Lynch also placed in the CCFC in the men’s foil.
According to Bowers, the Grizzlies will need to fill up the big shoes left behind by seven seniors that graduated last June.
“The men’s saber, men’s épée, and women’s saber squads graduated the most fencers, so we need to build up those programs,” said Bowers. “However, our women’s épée and women’s foil teams are just as strong or stronger than last year.”
The seniors for the women’s squads are Maddie Markle-Ward (foil), Cassandra Pringle (foil), Riley Weed (épée), Joy Qiang (foil), Lelia Ruser (foil), Taylor Smith (foil), and Melek Top (épée). For the seniors on the men’s squads, the fencers are Jack Audet (foil), Max Banning (épée), Julian Fencil (saber), Jack Fusco (saber), Ryan Greiner (saber), Shivai Kumar (saber), Ryan Lynch (foil), and Ayra Nadgouda (foil).
The juniors for the women’s squads are Kylin Broderick (foil), Cassandra Granata (saber), Tessa Kissinger (épée), and Kateryna Romanenko (épée). The juniors for the men’s squads are Josh Cooper (saber), Paul Greenleaf (foil), Jackson Howard (épée), Jason Li (saber). Jack Rasmussen (foil), and Avery Spagone (épée).
The sophomores for the women’s squads are Clara Arpie (saber), Addison Weed (foil), Catherine Zhou (foil), Sophia LaBelle (épée), and Makenna Sullivan (saber). The sophomores for the men’s squads are Charles Canapari (foil), Benjamin Libby (saber), Connor O’Leary (épée), Rohan Patel (foil), Raymond Schmidt (épée), and Logan Shay (saber).
The freshman for the women’s squads are Kyra Amani (épée), Tessa Antonakis (épée), Ella Greenleaf (foil), Analise Hastings (saber), Olivia Koumpouras (saber), Riley Maturo (saber), Lyra Monaco (saber), Emily O’Sullivan (saber), Sydney Pierson (saber), and Brooklyn Smith (épée). The freshmen for the men’s squad are James Donohue (foil), Luke Kissinger (épée), Edward (Teddy) Morris (foil), Logan Plancon (saber), and Tao Pradith (épée).
The first competition is slated for Friday, Dec. 16 at Guilford High School, however, it will only feature the saber and épée squads. The Grizzlies’ first invitational will be on Saturday, Jan. 7 at Morgan High School.The Clinton Invitational will also include North Haven, Hand and Simsbury.