Greenwich boys fencers take top honor in state

The GHS fencing team poses for a photo after winning the boys state championship. From left are head coach Don Grunewald, Nathaniel Ung, Brian Johnston, Faran Savitz, Juliette McGinnis and team captain Harry McGuire.

The GHS fencing team poses for a photo after winning the boys state championship. From left are head coach Don Grunewald, Nathaniel Ung, Brian Johnston, Faran Savitz, Juliette McGinnis and team captain Harry McGuire.

In dramatic fashion, the Greenwich High School boys fencing team traveled up to North Haven’s Hopkins School and won the Connecticut State Fencing Championships by coming away with the thrilling 5-4 victory over defending champion Norwich Free Academy.

“The boys foil guys are very professional and know what to do,” said first-year head coach Don Grunewald, who was previously the assistant on GHS for four seasons. “They go out there and do it. We brought four or five guys with me to the event and other schools had like 50 or 60 people with them. I told the kids that they had to be tough and stand in there with a lot of noise. There was a lot of momentum against them, but they stood in there and were mentally prepared. They were the whole day and there wasn’t a moment throughout the day where they looked nervous.”

The GHS boys foil team, comprising foil team captains Harrison McGuire and Brian Johnston, as well as teammates Faran Savitz and Nathaniel Ung, won the gold medal in the Connecticut State Fencing Championships.

“It was crazy today,” GHS junior captain Harry McGuire said. “Everybody did so well.”

At last weekend’s event, the GHS foilists won their first round  5-4.

In the second round, the team faced Clinton’s Morgan High School, which had pulled off a surprise victory over second-ranked Guilford High School in an earlier round. Big Red fought hard against Morgan High School and netted another 5-4 victory to earn a spot in the finals against the state’s top-ranked men’s high school foil team from Norwich Free Academy.

Initially, the Cardinals struggled against NFA, trailing 4-2. All the NFA team needed to do was to win one more bout to capture the state championships.

However that’s when the Cards came to life, winning three consecutive bouts to clinch the 5-4 victory.

“The feeling of winning the tie-breaking bout was insane,” said GHS sophomore Savitz, who came up victorious in the deciding bout. “It was really great to be a part of the fencing team that won the first championship for GHS.”

Although Grunewald was excited for his team’s victory and state championship, there was another word he used to describe watching his team mount its comeback.

“It was terrifying,” said Grunewald. “I was standing there, watching everybody and my heart was pounding. It was almost too hard to watch. When it was over and we won, I couldn’t be more relieved and happy. It was so intense and to finish the way we did, it was a surreal experience.”

With the victory, GHS improved from last year’s third-place finish.

“We had a good season,” Grunewald said. “The boys team really came together at the end of the season and the foil really picked up. That was great. The girls team would have had such a better year if it wasn’t for the flu. The flu was awful for our girls team. We were missing one-third or one-half of our starting lineup because they were out sick. It happens, but if it wasn’t for the flu, I think the girls team would have been much better.”

Greenwich entered the championship competition with a third place ranking, based on the individual events in the state’s individual foil competition, held the previous weekend, and in which GHS fielded over 15 men and women fencers in the foil, epee and sabre events.

In the previous weekend’s foil competition, both Greenwich’s boys and girls teams fared well. Harry McGuire took first and Faran Savitz placed ninth in men’s foil respectively.

Despite the strong showing, only the GHS men’s foil team qualified for the state team championships.

“We are lucky, as we only lose one girl and one boy,” Grunewald said. “Our best players are coming back next year, so we need to keep the momentum going. We need to stay sharp, train hard and not take anything for granted. We need to keep pushing if we are going to be successful next year.”

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