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Mastering the art of the blade: Local fencers face off at national competition
by JENNIFFER WARDELL
Jul 03, 2014 | 1115 views | 0 0 comments | 48 48 recommendations | email to a friend | print
DYLAN NOLLNER competing at the 2012 World Championships in Russia.
DYLAN NOLLNER competing at the 2012 World Championships in Russia.
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KAYSVILLE - You don’t have to be a fantasy re-enactor to enjoy a good swordfight.

Schoolhouse Fencing, which does part of its training in Davis County, teaches students of all ages and skill levels the art of fencing. Some of the club’s more skilled members are with coach Kenny Nopens at the 2014 USA Fencing National Championships, but those with all skill levels are welcome as newcomers swell the sport’s ranks.

“Fencing has really grown as a sport in the last 10 years,” said Jennifer Nollner, with Schoolhouse Fencing. “It’s partly because of how well we’ve done in recent Olympics, but the number of people at events like this have probably quadrupled in size.”

The club has 12 students at the event, including Tatijana Stewart, currently the top 14-year-old fencer in the nation. Though she’ll only be in 10th grade this fall, she won the Cadet gold medal at the Junior Olympics in February. 

“She’s our little female phenomenon,” said Nollner. 

Though most of the individual events started this week, the club’s senior team finished 6th out of 38 teams at their event. They lost by a few points to the U.S. National team, which went on to win the gold medal at the event. 

“It stinks,” said Nollner. “But if you have to lose to someone, you might as well lose to them.”

Several fencers who have competed with the club have gone on to college careers.  Among those is Dylan Nollner, who fenced for Duke in the NCAA championships for four years, and Elias Johnson, currently an NCAA competitor at the United States Air Force Academy. 

Most of the fencers trained by the club specialize in epee, a type of fencing where the entire body is the target. 

“While it’s easy to pick up a weapon and learn to fence, becoming skilled at the sport takes years,” said Nollner. “It is a sport that combines physicality with mental ability, as you move with precise actions in order to draw the desired reaction from your opponent so you can capitalize on their mistake.”

Still, Schoolhouse Fencing has plenty of room for beginners and those who aren’t yet sure that they’re dedicated to the sport. Students can spend anywhere from one to two years in the beginner classes, where instructors don’t make them pay for any of the equipment used. 

“Even if you’re seven and come in hoping to swing a sword, you’ll start learning proper technique,” said Nollner. “We don’t like parents to have to buy $150-$200 in equipment, then have to sell it on Ebay when their kids change their minds.”

If you do decide to invest in the equipment, old age won’t be a reason to shut it back in the closet. The national competition has an entire sub-category for veterans, with 50-year olds and 70-year olds competing against people in their own age group.

“It’s not a sport you have to give up just because your knees gave out,” said Nollner. “You can fence at any age.”

Fencing as an adult can have a profound effect on your life in other ways, as well. Nollner had been divorced for a year when her son decided to take fencing lessons at Wasatch Fencing, another club in Kaysville. A month later, Kenny Nopens came in as a volunteer instructor. 

“I told him, if I was going to help with the club, I really should know how to fence,” said Nollner. 

The lessons eventually led to marriage, as well as the opening of Schoolhouse Fencing. 

“That’s our fencing love story,” she laughed. 

For more information, visit schoolhousefencing.com.

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