Club Spotlight: Denison’s Fencing Team

CASEY TRIMM – “There’s a fighter inside all of us. The first time I put on my white mask and grabbed a sword, nothing else mattered. I never thought I’d fall in love with fencing,” said Gavin Thomas ‘20, an economics major from Woodbury, Minnesota.

College is the time to branch out and try something you’ve never imagined yourself doing. Why not consider joining a new club or sports team? Check out Denison’s Fencing Team!

The Denison Fencing Team was formed in 2010 when Dr. Peter Grandbois started teaching in the English department. There had been a fencing club at Denison before, so with Dr. Grandbois’s passion for the sport and the dusting off of some old equipment, the team building was officially underway.

Dr. Grandbois isn’t the only key contributor to the startup and growth of the club. Students Hongyi Tian, Isabel Randolph and Logan Smith kept the club going during the beginning. Shortly after, Daniel Timmins led a huge growth spurt when the club nearly doubled in size. Since then, George Malloch Brown and Mattie Shepard have steered the club through another doubling in size, making the fencing team now one of the biggest clubs at Denison.

The club itself has about 30-40 fencers, while the traveling team that competes in the Midwest Fencing Conference has about 28 men and women. The club competes against Div. I, II and III varsity teams, as well as other club teams in the Midwest.

The fencing team is the only Denison sport that regularly competes against Div. I varsity programs, including the University of Michigan, which is the number one club team in the country. They also compete against The Ohio State University, the number two varsity team in the country.

Last year, the men’s team competed in the Midwest conference and had an overall record of seven wins and nine losses. The women’s team just began competing this year and beat the University of Iowa and the University of Illinois teams at their first big meet at The Ohio State University.

At this difficult first meet, Coach Grandbois prepared his team by telling them that they would be facing Olympians who have trained their whole lives.

He continued by saying, “I told them that if they could score a touch on them, I’d buy them a Coke or their drink of choice, non-alcoholic of course!”

With this motivation in mind, every woman of the team won a bout, the technical term for a competition between two fencers. At this extremely difficult meet, they overcame fierce competition and performed way better than expected.

The team not only competes to win, but also aims to build character. Each competitor learns more about the sport as a whole, while also unraveling new and exciting traits about themself.

Diyanshu Emandi ‘21, an economics major from India, has been fencing for about two months now.

“Fencing taught me to not be afraid of losing, getting hit and of obnoxiously tall people. It taught me to push myself out of my comfort zone and to learn from my failure. It turned me into the ninja I am today.”

The team will compete next on Nov. 5 against schools including Case Western Reserve, Michigan, Oberlin, Michigan State and Xavier. They hope to continue improving and perform even better than last time.

The team practices on Sundays from 4:30-7p.m., Wednesdays from 6:30-9p.m. and Fridays from 4:30-7p.m. in the Multipurpose room in Mitchell.

If interested, the team is always looking for new members! No experience required. All equipment is provided. They are especially looking to add on more fencers to the women’s team. With private, free individual lessons from Coach Grandbois, within a short time strong results can be achieved.