Fencing hosts first Yellow Jacket Open

The Yellow Jacket Fencing Club (YJFC) conducted its first ever event sanctioned by the United States Fencing Association (USFA) last weekend, when from March 6-7 the club hosted the Yellow Jacket Open at the North Avenue Apartments recreation center. It was a landmark event for the club, which began in 2005 as a group of 12 members. The Open brought together 22 teams from Ga. and across the South.

“We came together a lot for this tournament…People really know who we are [now] and we’re really trying to grow on [an intercollegiate] scale,” said sophomore Blake Watson, the team captain.

Seven events were held over the two days, encompassing all three fencing disciplines—epee, foil and saber, each distinguished by a different sword and techniques attributed to each.

Epee, which is the largest of the weapons, allows fencers to hit their opponent anywhere on their body—including the head and below the legs. The style of play tends to be more defensive. Foil and saber limit hits to only the torso up; however, saber does allow for head hits. Foil is the smallest and lightest of the weapons, and it tends to be the starting point for new fencers.

“Typically, starting everyone on foil gives everyone good fundamentals. [After that], they can go where they want,” said junior Joseph Conn, the club president.

Saber, the most dynamic discipline, contrasts the defensive, fundamental-heavy nature of the others and relies on dynamic, offensive techniques.

Notably, while each of the fencers who competed was affiliated with a club or school, fencers competed on an individual basis only.

“Typically, [fencing is] a sport of individuals,” Conn said.

Saturday featured open mixed epee for all fencers, followed by epee for C-and-under fencers. Additionally, wheelchair foil and saber took place. Tech had only two fencers in each of the epee events. Junior Michael Starosto took 10th place in the open mixed epee field.

In Sunday’s foil and saber events, Tech had many more participants.

Six YJFC members took part in C-and-under mixed foil. Leading the way was Conn, who tied for third place and was promoted to a D rating. Senior Scott Risher finished ninth in the event, and the runner-up, Paul Herin, was a co-founder of the YJFC in 2005 (though he competed as a member of the Augusta Fencing Club).

Open mixed foil saw a number of high-rated players compete for the top spot. Watson, an A-rated fencer, took third place for Tech’s highest finish in the event. Another YJFC fencer, Scott Cummins, finished 12th and earned an E rating after being unrated previously.

Six YJFC fencers took part in open mixed saber, the final competition of the Open. Graduate student Bradley Jankowiak and freshman Bryan Sprague finished sixth and seventh, respectively.

On the whole, club membership is constantly in a state of flux. The large time commitment means many prospective members are unable to stay long-term.

“We practice two hours a day, four days a week…Some people manage it really well, but…it’s hard,” Watson said.

The club has focused on members who have strong ties to the sport and would be both willing to devote time to the club and able to assist newer members.

“We’re trying to get…people who at least can stay for a couple of years, just so they can help the continuing crowd. In this we’ve become a lot more structured and organized,” Watson said.

“I’m graduating next year, so my goal is to build a strong foundation of people who are…excited about it like these guys, and hopefully get them to do the same thing later,” Conn said.