Jake Hempe has shown he has the talent to succeed at the highest level of Suffolk boys fencing and now he’s trying to lead his team to the same level.
The Newfield junior, last season’s Newsday boys fencer of the year who went 45-1 in foil, is ready to take on the best.
“Jake is very disciplined and he puts in the work every single day,” Newfield coach Kyle Schirmer said. “He’s really taken it to the next level.”
Hempe will lead a Newfield team that is also looking for key contributions at sabre from sophomores Dominic Bartolo and Mark Hofilina.
“Jake is one of our three captains and he’s great with the younger kids,” Schirmer said. “He’s a mentor to some of them. His knowledge of this sport is very deep.”
Newfield’s 14-13 loss to Ward Melville last Wednesday has Schirmer believing his squad will be a top competitor in Suffolk.
“This year our goal is for a top-two finish,” Schirmer said. “We’re pretty solid across the board and have depth everywhere.”
Ward Melville, which has won 158 matches and 10 Long Island championships in a row, is the program other Suffolk teams measure themselves against. The Patriots return county champion Ben Rogak, a junior who went 28-3 at epee last year and is ranked 43rd in the country in the under-17 age group. Josh Yen, a junior who fences sabre, will be another important contributor for Ward Melville.
“We have a pretty young team but we should be strong,” coach Jeff Salmon said. “It should be pretty interesting for us the next couple of years.”
Half Hollow Hills and Commack are perennial contenders in Suffolk.
In Nassau, Edmond Wu and Steven Grams lead a Great Neck South team that is looking to avenge its loss to Garden City in last year’s Nassau playoffs. Great Neck South last won a boys county title in 2014 and this is a class that coach Josh Baravarian believes could be special.
“I have a number of kids returning that we’ve been waiting to be seniors,” he said. Chief among them is Wu, who won the Nassau title at sabre and went 24-6 in dual meets. Grams, who also has Canadian citizenship, is the No. 1 epee fencer in his age group in Canada, according to Baravarian. He went 21-0 last season and won the county championship.
Great Neck South defeated defending team champion Garden City, 18-9, on Dec. 4. The Trojans’ top returning fencer is senior Philip Acinapuro, who won the county title in foil last year and went 25-1. Jericho will also be a top competitor in Nassau.