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Golden age for Long Island boys fencing

Ward Melville's Jack Rohan, left, lunges to the

Ward Melville's Jack Rohan, left, lunges to the attack against Commack's Ryan Baldi and scores the touch. Photo Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

The talent level of Long Island fencing is on the rise, which should make for another exciting high school season. Officials from the United States Fencing Association say the area stands out nationally for its robust scholastic fencing competition, and that the talent pool continues to grow.

“There’s a high school program here, and there’s quite a lot of good things going on here,” United States men’s national team coach Greg Massialas said.

Bob Bodor, a USFA official, said he has noticed “big-time” growth in the sport on Long Island. “That’s my job as manager of membership, to monitor that and try to find growth initiatives. We’re in a good spot right now.

“There is already a great history in the metro New York area,” Bodor added. “And one of the benefits of fencing on Long Island is you have a very viable high school contingency. There’s a very committed group of high school coaches. From a high school fencing perspective, this is the best place to be.”

The growth locally mirrors a national trend. According to the most recent National Federation of State High School Associations survey, boys fencing ranked 29th in terms of participation, but has grown at a higher rate than almost all of the most popular boys sports.

The number of high school boys fencers increased by 5.9 percent from the 2010-11 school year to the 2014-15 school year. Among the 10 boys sports with the most participants, only soccer’s participants increased at a higher rate, while six sports saw their participation levels drop.

“There’s a much larger interest in our sport now,” Bodor said.

“It’s a very safe sport. There’s a lot of concerns about concussions in youth sports. We don’t have that in fencing. Parents love to hear that. It’s a great time to be involved in the sport.”

Recent high school seasons have illustrated the rise and spread in talent across Long Island. Ward Melville boys fencing remains the team to beat, having won nine consecutive Long Island championships and 141 consecutive dual meets, but has faced increasingly stout competition.

Half Hollow Hills beat Ward Melville in last season’s county tournament, and Jericho was level with the Patriots through two rounds in the Long Island championship before losing, 14-11. The Patriots remain the favorites, led by returning county finalist Jack Rohan in sabre, in addition to Danny Deto (sabre) and epeeists Michael Jaklitsch and Ben Rogak.

Hills returns Paul Pimentel in foil, while Ryan Baldi leads Commack, and Whitman features a trio of returning county finalists: Mark Dammer and Steven Ciravolo in sabre, and Adam Meskill in foil.

Bennett Cohen and Chris Xu will look to bring Jericho back to the Long Island championship, while its top competition in Nassau will include Great Neck South, Oyster Bay, Great Neck North and Garden City.

Boys fencers to watch:

Ryan Baldi, Commack, Sr.

The sabre fencer reached the individual county final last year.

Bennett Cohen, Jericho, Sr.

The 2014 Nassau epee champion went 25-1 in dual meets and finished second in the county last season.

Patrick Gao, Great Neck North, Sr.

Won his second consecutive county title in sabre last year and was 23-5 in dual meets.

William Lee, Wheatley/Roslyn, Sr.

Won the county championship in epee last season.

Donal Mahoney, Garden City, Sr.

He finished in second in the county in sabre last season.

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