Fencers face off in Christmas Classic

Roswell septuagenarian Dave Sourk (left) crosses sabers with Lukas, the pre-teen son of NMMI professor Aonan Tang, at the 2018 Christmas Classic Fencing Tournament.
Roswell septuagenarian Dave Sourk (left) crosses sabers with Lukas, the pre-teen son of NMMI professor Aonan Tang, at the 2018 Christmas Classic Fencing Tournament.

NMMI Sports Press

New Mexico Military Institute cadets enrolled in PHEA 1351 took up arms against former cadets and members of the local community, competing in this year’s Christmas Classic Fencing Tournament on Dec. 6, held on the NMMI campus in the Godfrey Athletic Center gym.

Participants donned their distinctive mesh helms and white fencing jackets, then wielded their weapon, vying for a chance to be the tourney’s top sword-slinger.

For this tournament, that blade was an epée, a heavier French version of the foil, designed for unarmored dueling with thrusting or piercing attacks.

“There are three types of weapons used in fencing: the saber, the foil, and the epée,” explained veteran NMMI coach Jan Olesinski. “This competition uses the epée - it is what we teach here in the class, and this tournament serves as the final exam.”

Coach ‘O’, as his students affectionately call him, has trained several Olympic athletes, including most recently, Team USA’s Nathan Schrimsher, who placed tenth in the fencing portion of the pentathlon at the 2016 Olympic Games. 

 “We had 25 competitors this year,” said Olesinski. “It was a diverse group: male, female, young, old. Some are students in this year’s class, a professor and his son here at NMMI, former cadets, members of the Roswell community. All-in-all, a good turnout.”

Competition began with pool play, a fun and raucous affair. Girls joined the fray against boys; kids jousted opponents who towered above them or sported ages surpassing that of their grandfather.

And once the seeds were decided, brackets were drawn up to determine the champions.

NMMI’s Caleb Allen stabbed his way to top honors in the open division, while the swordplay of Roswell’s Mary Olvera took the top spot in the female division.

Complete Results:

Open Epée
Place     Name                                    Team
1              Caleb Allen                         NMMI
2              Christopher Najar               NMMI
3              Even Staeden                     Roswell
4              Jeremy Pinion                     NMMI
5              Dr. Aonan Tang                   Roswell
6              Dylan Begay                       NMMI
7              Owen Gregory                    Roswell
8              Dave Sourk                        Roswell
9              Apodaca Ortega                  NMMI
10           Collin Protzeller                    NMMI
11           Jonah Pinon                         Roswell
12           Lukas Tang                          Roswell
13           Joshua Leible                       NMMI

Women’s Epée
Place     Name                                    Team
1              Mary Olvera                       Roswell
2              Tessa Walker                      NMMI
3              Lauren Leonard                  NMMI
4              Allison Langowski               NMMI
5              Kayla Sisneros                   NMMI
6              Erin Brindle                        NMMI

Left: Open Epée champion, cadet Caleb Allen. Right: Women’s Open Epée champion, Mary Olvera.