The entire fencing season came down to Mike Jaklitsch. He wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Jaklitsch won the 27th and final bout of last week’s Long Island championship for Ward Melville, clinching the Patriots’ 14-13 win over Garden City and earning Newsday’s Athlete of the Week honors in the process.
“I was very confident,” said Jaklitsch, who won each of his three epee bouts in the championship and said he would rather be on the strip than be a spectator. “I know what I can do and I know I can beat anyone that gets on the strip against me.”
The final bout occurred in almost total silence, before his teammates erupted after Jaklitsch got the winning touch. “You could feel the overall excitement,” he said. “Everyone was so happy and you just know you did well. It was a great moment to come through for my team.”
Jaklitsch went 28-3 in dual meets this season, which tied for the best epee record in Suffolk. He won also 56 of 61 bouts the past two seasons, bringing his overall varsity record to 95-21.
He also played a pivotal role in a season in which the Patriots extended their dual-meet winning streak to 158. Jaklitsch went 7-1 in the team’s victory in the Suffolk team tournament and formed one of Long Island’s top one-two punches with teammate Ben Rogak. This was especially apparent in the Long Island championship, when the two epee fencers combined to go 6-0.
“I was confident in Mike in that final bout,” coach Jeff Salmon said. “I was confident that if we could hold it together and leave it to my last two epee fencers, we would be OK. We kept moving on and grabbing the points when we had to.”
“I was very relaxed watching Mike, knowing that he was going to win,” said Rogak, who won the 26th bout and tied the match at 13. “He’s such a talented fencer, and I really didn’t have a doubt in my mind.”
The Patriots’ epee fencers went 7-2 in the Long Island championship, serving as a counterweight to a strong performance from Garden City’s sabre.
“We always try to support our teammates,” Jaklitsch said of the epee unit’s performance. “That’s what we’re here for.”
Beyond high school competitions, Jaklitsch has an “A” rating from the United States Fencing Association. He earned the mark after a string of positive results on the national circuit, including a ninth-place finish at the 2015 Division III National Championships.
His decorated time as a high school fencer is in the books though and Jaklitsch said it has been filled with good memories.
“I’m going to remember my team,” he said. “It’s a family I’ve come to love over the years.”