GNS Dominates Fencing Competition, Wins First Ever Long Island Championship


Photo courtesy of Joshua Baravarian

Great Neck South fencers celebrate after winning the Long Island Championship.

Richard Zhuang

On February 16 at Walt Whitman High School, Junior Wilmund Wu scored the thrilling final touch to win his match 5-4, bringing GNS to 14 wins and securing the Long Island Championship for the Great Neck South boys fencing team for the first time ever. After a nail-biting 14-13 win against Syosset to win the Nassau County Championship, Great Neck South easily won against Commack in a convincing 14-6 fashion. “The district has never won a Long Island Championship,” said fencing coach Joshua Baravarian. “The only team to ever win a Long Island Championship from Nassau [County] was Jericho. Other than that, no one has ever won. So for Nassau County, this was a huge accomplishment, and for the district, it was enormous. It really puts Great Neck on the map as one of the premier programs on Long Island.”

In case you are unfamiliar with how fencing works, it involves two athletes facing each other in a match, known as a “bout,” which takes place on a long metal strip. There are some additional detailed rules, but the basic premise involves getting a hit on the opponent’s body, which is a “touch,” while avoiding getting hit yourself. There are also three different weapons: the epee, saber, and the foil, each with their own rules and tactics. The epee is the heaviest weapon, and the bouts tend to be slower and more methodical, while the saber is the lightest weapon, and the bouts are significantly faster. The foil is in between the two, with a medium blade weight and relatively quick bouts. Each fencing match consists of 27 total bouts with 9 bouts for each weapon. The first fencer to reach 5 points wins the bout, and the team that wins 14 bouts first wins the match.  Fencing isn’t, however, just a match of who can stab the other faster—it involves quick thinking and outsmarting your opponent, which is why some have referred to it as “physical chess.” It requires both mental ability and incredible physical prowess (the tip of a fencing blade is, supposedly, the second fastest moving object at the Olympics, behind only the markman’s bullet). 

GNS dominated the competition this year as usual, finishing the regular season with an impressive 9-1 record, only losing to Syosset in a 13-14 loss. GNS cruised through the quarter and semifinals, beating both Manhasset and Oyster Bay 14-1. In the finals, GNS faced Syosset again in another exciting match, but this time they were triumphant, winning 14-13 after Sophomore Ryan Zhang clutched the 27th bout. The Long Island Championship against Commack was not as interesting, with a smooth 14-6 win for GNS, but it was a monumental moment nonetheless. 

This level of dominance should be a surprise to no one: GNS has always had a very strong fencing team, winning the Nassau County Championship 11 times in the past 23 years. Many of the GNS fencers not only put in work during school, but also practice outside of school by going to fencing clubs and competing in national competitions. “We have a very talented foil team: all the boys go to club, compete outside nationally, and that really was a big strength for us competing at the Long Island Championship,” said Baravarian. “We have two graduating seniors who also have had all-county status for most of the time on the team over their few years; we have really good saber fencers who are also fencing outside. A lot of [our success] has to do with work that is done not just in school but also outside of school.”

Coach Baravarian has very high hopes for the team’s future. “I think us winning this year really set the precedent for Nassau County fencing; of course, being at a higher level than Suffolk is now, we’ve kind of taken over as the better fencing [team] on Long Island. We graduate three seniors next year, and that’s fine because we have people to come in and replace like we always do. We always have young talent waiting in the wings.” With this win, GNS hopes to build on this momentum and look to continue excelling in the future.