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The University Star




The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

Fencing club victory at SWIFA not expected, nor swift

Texas+State+Fencing+awarded+Top+Sabre+Squad+of+SWIFA+III%2C+pictured+afterward.+Left+to+right%3A+junior+Peter+Cu%3B+freshman+Jengo+Russell%3B+freshman+Maddy+McJilton.+Saturday%2C+April+16th%2C+2022

Texas State Fencing awarded Top Sabre Squad of SWIFA III, pictured afterward. Left to right: junior Peter Cu; freshman Jengo Russell; freshman Maddy McJilton. Saturday, April 16th, 2022

For the Texas State Fencing Club, its win at the Southwest Intercollegiate Fencing Association (SWIFA) competitions came as a pleasant surprise. They considered themselves underdogs and took that attitude into the first conference championship victory in the competition’s return.
SWIFA held three competitions for the South Texas Conference, the first competitions since before COVID-19, from March 5-April 16. Seven schools from across the state competed and all three weapon disciplines were tested in. Texas State University came out on top as the 2021-2022 Grand Champion.
The Bobcats defended their hometown with a victory as the top foil and overall squad at SWIFA 1 on March 5, hosted by Texas State in San Marcos. On April 2, they backed up their victories with wins as the top foil, epee and overall squad at SWIFA 2 hosted by Texas A&M in College Station.
Heading into the final event on April 16, SWIFA 3 hosted by The University of Texas at Austin, fencing club president Josh Paez saw that his team had a chance after calculating past results. In Paez’s years with the club, he had never experienced a win in saber, the event that would take the team over the hump for its grand achievement.
“We won by a very close margin, and it was an uphill battle the entire time,” Paez, a biochemistry senior, said. “Everything was kind of set against us, all their people had more experienced fencers in their second or third year, their best fencer was in his fourth year.”
The structure of the tournaments took form on the final day of competition, as club member Jengo Russell, a business administration-management freshman, who has taken up fencing as recently as last September, was set to take the strip in a saber competition. The atmosphere was intense as Russell took on a competitor with whom he had previously fallen short to 5-1. 
The Bobcat fencer thrived this go around, doing so with his own unique mentality.
“I went in thinking we are going to get second place, so I was much more relaxed,” Russell said. “When I am fencing at a tournament, in my head, most people give in to pressure and are like, ‘oh my gosh nerves.’ I am just meowing, just on the strip, meow. Calm as I can be.”
Russell described the bout as wiping the silver paint by him. He defeated the fencer, winning the event for the Bobcats while shouting phrases like “le meow” and “huzzah,” expressions he says while competing that are written on his glove.
Under a direct elimination format, the tournaments follow standards set by USA Fencing with bouts being fenced up to five points. With the points even at four, the club’s treasurer Peter Cu, an accounting junior, had the opportunity to win his saber match in the decisive ninth bout. 
“It was crazy, that ninth match. By that point my brain was fried, it was the end of the day,” Cu said. “I just had one card in my playbook, I just went for straight attacks, and it worked out. I lost a lot of points, but I pulled ahead.”
The entire team was excited as it was the first time since joining the club that any member had beaten The University of Texas in saber. Members new and old were there to celebrate, just as they are present for practices and other club-led activities. 
With the new trophy additions to the storage closet in Jowers Center, room 221, where practice is held three times a week, Paez is excited about the team’s future and not worried about collecting spoils. Instead, his sights are set on keeping the club fun, diverse and inclusive.
“I want to continue to have good results. But at the end of the day, I always have to recognize that this is about community,” Paez said. “This is about family, coming together and bonding over a sport. Not necessarily grabbing trophies and kicking ass and taking names.”
Despite the conclusion of the SWIFA season, the Texas State Fencing Club is not done fine-tuning its craft. Practices are held on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 7-10 p.m. in Jowers Center, room 221, and no prior experience is required to join the team.

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