Last Sunday, the Oswego State fencing club did two things it never had before. It went to a tournament, and it medaled. Featuring two weapons, foil and saber, Oswego State visited the SUNY Binghamton campus for the invitational meet.
With most of their team having no experience fencing beyond this semester, the most the coaches were hoping for was a respectable showing in the pools. Oswego State overachieved, with all of the foils reaching the second round of the tournament against nationally-ranked fencers, and two of the sabers medaling.
A brief overview of fencing and how tournaments are run may be helpful for those unfamiliar with the sport. The Oswego State fencing club features two different weapons, or swords, known as foil and saber. A foil is lighter, and has a more flexible blade that can easily be flicked at the opponent. It is a tip weapon, meaning that the button on the tip must be depressed to score points. A saber is heavier, with a bell guard stretching over the hand. It is a slashing weapon, if any part of the blade makes contact with the target area of the opponent, a point is awarded to that fencer.
Matches between fencers, known as bouts, are run through a point system, and a judge decides who is awarded points in case of a double touch, where both fencers hit each other simultaneously. Bouts can run to either five or fifteen points and can last between three and eleven minutes of official time.
The meet was an individual-style tournament, and was divided by weapon. Foil was at nine in the morning, and saber was at four. All of the weapons followed the same format. All of the fencers were divided into random pools of sizes ranging from five to seven fencers. Each fencer faced off against the other opponents in its pool to determine rankings for the bracket portion of the tournament. Each bout was to five points, or three minutes.
Rankings were determined by the amount of points each fencer scored versus the amount of points scored against them. From these, the brackets were determined. Some fencers were awarded byes based on their performance, and how many people were in the tournament at the time.
For foil, 10 of the original 35 fencers were eliminated after the pools. All of the saber fencers made it to the brackets, since there were only 19 saber fencers total. One Oswego State foilist, Garrett Edick, and one Oswego State saberist, coach Peter Kuntz were awarded byes. These bouts were to 15 points, and divided into 3 three-minute sections, with a minute of rest in between. For saber, due to the speed of the bouts, a rest was taken when either fencer reached eight points.
All of the foilists posted winning records through the pools and advanced into the brackets. Each won their first bout except for Edick, who earned a bye.
In the second round, they each faced nationally-ranked or previously ranked fencers, and fell out of the brackets. However, they did not have a poor showing, often keeping the score close until the end.
The saberists were more concentrated, and only one Oswego State saberist did not have another Oswego State fencer in its pool. While not all of them had winning records, they all scored three wins.
In the brackets, the sabers all moved on to the second round except for Emily Brockman, who had to fence David McCormick, another rookie Oswego State saberist. McCormick went on to place second in a thrilling final match against a five-year French saberist, who had previously beaten the saber coach Peter Kuntz, 15-11. The final score of the final was 15-13, in favor of the French saberist. Oswego State ended the day taking second and third in the saber tournament, and finishing well in the foil tournament.
“I’m so proud of all of our fencers,” Kuntz said. “For their first year, they did amazing.” With this to build on, it will be interesting to see how far this team can go.