About 40 competitors, including Fort Bragg Family members, participated in an end of season championship, June 8, hosted by the All-American Fencing Academy.
The academy is owned by Gerhard Guevarra, an Army veteran and a Fort Bragg School liaison officer with Child, Youth and School Services.
Other Fayetteville competitors at the end of season championship were joined by fencers from Wilmington Fencing Club and from the Apex Fencing Academy.
In previous years, only two events were held — the youth foil and the teen/adult foil events. This year, five events were open to competitors, including open saber, youth foil, teen/adult foil, youth epee and teen/adult epee.
“By far, it’s the largest event we’ve ever hosted,” said Gerhard Guevarra, head coach. “Next year, we’ll have to look at a two-day event.”
In saber, Brett Silverman from Wilmington Fencing Club took first while All-American Fencing Academy’s Karl Schmitkons took second. Schmitkons, a colonel and vice commander assigned to Air Force Reserve’s 440th Airlift Wing at Pope Field, has fenced with the Air Force Academy Division I team. He has previously taken first in saber in several of the academy’s events.
Schmitkons’ whole Family is involved in fencing. His wife, Nancy, participates in the epee class, while his son participates in the youth foil and epee classes.
Also medaling for the first time in saber was Elizabeth Leever, from Fayetteville, who placed third. Leever has only fenced in four previous events.
In the youth epee and teen/adult epee, All-American Academy fencers came out on top with Kurt Schmitkons placing first in youth epee and Beth Athanas placing first in the teen/adult epee.
The highlight in these two events was Jack Jarrard who medaled in second place in the youth epee event. This was Jarrard’s first event, but he looks like he’s been fencing for years despite only being 8 years old, said Guevarra.
“Jarrard’s fencing is calm, precise and effective. He appears to move so gracefully on the fencing strip and has the poise of an Olympic fence,” Guevarra said. “He attempted touches that none of his other peers tried, including trying to score by hitting the opponent’s toe, a difficult touch for epee fencers,” he said.
“His mom helps a lot,” said epee coach Maya Cameron. “He doesn’t just fence at the academy. He works on it at home. Whatever we work on during lessons, mom makes him practice at home and it shows.”
In youth foil, Apex Fencing Academy fencers Travis Carlson and Abel Griswold swept first and second place, but All-American Fencing Academy fencers Cullen LeBrun and Rylan Hill (a military Family member participating through the Fort Bragg SKIESUnlimited program) tied for third.
“Cullen and Rylan did very well over the weekend,” said Guevarra.
“Cullen naturally did well, he’s been fencing with the All-American Fencing Academy for over two years now,” Guevarra said. “However, Rylan is a fire cracker. He has the speed and he has the skill, but this was his first tournament. There was a little ‘deer in headlights’ effect; he back pedaled a lot in his bouts, especially against Travis Carlson who was nearly two feet taller than him.”
But once Guevarra instructed Rylan not give up any ground, Ryan had no choice but to move forward and stop attacks early or make his own attack. Rylan won his next bout immediately after his loss to Travis Carlson.
“Cullen, too, did outstanding. He’s not as fast as other fencers, but he’s gotten smarter. His touches were precise and well planned out. In fencing, smarter will always beat faster and stronger,” Guevarra explained.
Finally, in the biggest event, teen/adult foil, Charles Chow from Apex took first place. All-American Fencing Academy fencers Grant Shymske placed second, while John Murray and Karl Schmitkons tied for third.
Murray has had a remarkable year. His coach, John Page, noted that he had been travelling to more tournaments without the team and has started to earn his ratings this year. Murray has placed in the top eight in most of his tournaments and even qualified for National Championships this year.
“He’s a hard worker, he executes the drills that we practice and he adapts well during a competition. He’s been able to come back from deficits and win bouts with little instruction from me,” said Page.
This tournament marks the end of the season for the All-American Fencing Academy. The academy is hosting several camps during the summer for beginner and advanced fencers.
“As we prepare for the next season, I’m excited about our fencers,” said Guevarra. “The epee team now has significant competition experience under their belts and should be well prepared for the fall season.”
Guevarra said he is even more excited about foil whose usual competitors routinely place in the top eight. The recent addition of new members such as Fort Bragg Army officers, Edward Distance, Robert Cheng and Gerardo Gomez will help the team.
“They are very advanced and a welcome addition to the foil team,” Guevarra said. “At the risk of sounding overly optimistic, with the exception of the Duke and University of North Carolina collegiate fencers, I think the All-American Fencing Academy men’s foil team is going to dominate next year,” predicted Guevarra.
The All-American Fencing Academy is located in downtown Fayetteville at 207 B Donaldson St. It instructs and trains recreational and competitive fencers from ages 7 to adult, offering classes through the Fort Bragg SKIES Unlimited program, which teaches discipline and enriches the lives of military-connected youth.
Fencers often compete regionally and nationally under coaches who include former World Cup and NCAA fencers.
For more information about the All-American Fencing Academy please call, 644-0137, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, visit their website at www.allamericanfencing.com. For more information about SKIESUnlimited classes, visit the Fort Bragg Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation website at www.fortbraggmwr.com /cyss/skies-unlimited/.