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    Sunday, June 23, 2024

    The Day’s 2024 All-Area Boys’ Fencer of the Year: St. Bernard’s Gianni Torres

    St. Bernard School senior Gianni Torres was the Connecticut High School Fencing Association state champion this season in men’s epee, having led the Saints to the Eastern Connecticut Conference Division II epee title. Torres was named The Day’s 2024 All-Area Boys’ Fencer of the Year. (Photo courtesy of the Torres family)
    St. Bernard’s Gianni Torres found his sport in fencing when he began at St. Bernard. Four years later, he won the state’s individual men’s epee title and earned a partial scholarship to compete beginning next season at Division I Wagner College on Staten Island, New York. (Photo courtesy of the Torres family)

    Montville — Most 8-year-olds are introduced to sports through the glove or the bat, the spiral or the bounce, the puck or the ball. And yes, Gianni Torres admitted to trying them all. But there was just something more alluring about this.

    “It was just very intriguing because you don't usually see fencing anywhere, right? You see basketball or baseball or football, but you don't really see fencing,” Torres was saying recently. “So I just thought the idea of using a sword and hitting someone was just very interesting.”

    And now it’s become something of a vocation for Torres, The Day’s 2024 All-Area Boys’ Fencer of the Year.

    Torres, Waterford resident and senior at the St. Bernard School, won the men’s epee title in March at the Connecticut High School Fencing Association individual tournament, earning medals in each competition all four years with the Saints.

    “I didn't actually start competing until I was a freshman in high school,” Torres said. “Which is a little later than most people who start fencing competitively. But my first year I qualified for Junior Olympics. I kept getting more interested and thought, ‘I can really go somewhere with this.’”

    Turns out he is going somewhere. Torres has earned partial scholarship money to compete at Division I Wagner College.

    And to think it all started so innocently.

    “I started when I was 8. I saw it on the TV. I just thought it was very interesting,” Torres said. “My dad took me to fencing lessons with coach Teel (Hugh Teel, the coach at Waterford High) that's what got me started.”

    After some time there, Teel sent Torres to Sandra Marchant, who owns the Woodbridge-based Rogue Fencing Academy. Marchant has been a multiple-time national medalist, Vet 40 National Champion and 2020 Vet 50 World Team member.

    “I wouldn’t be where I am without her,” Torres said. “She’s had a major impact.”

    Fencing is among the fastest growing sports in the Eastern Connecticut Conference. But before there’s a chorus of “they’ve come a long way, baby,” well, the sport still has to come a long way, baby.

    “Most of the time, when I bring up fencing, people are surprised that we even have a fencing team,” Torres said. “But I think over time, as I've been on the team, a lot more people have joined. When I started, I think there were only about 15 people. And now we've grown the program to over 30. So it's definitely becoming more popular and I'd like to see it continue to grow.”

    Torres was even given the opportunity to provide an impromptu public service announcement for his sport.

    “I think the biggest appeal, at least for me now, is you need to have a really strong mental game,” he said. “It doesn't really matter so much the physical side because fencing is so strategic. I've fenced people who are almost 7 feet tall, but as long as I have a better plan, I can beat them.”

    And how would that happen?

    “Without getting too technical, fencing is mainly about three things,” he said. “The action, the distance and the timing. So there's a move in fencing called the fleche (French for ‘arrow’). And you more or less run at your opponent, very quickly with a lot of power. And you could clear probably a meter per second. So going against someone who's a lot taller than you, you can steal a lot of distance very quickly.”

    And now Gianni Torres has found his way to scholarship money in a growing sport.

    “I would say I tried just about everything,” he said. “But I never really stuck with something until I started fencing.”

    The Day’s 2024 All-Area Fencing Team

    Player of the Year - Gianni Torres (St. Bernard)

    Gabriel Bartlett (NFA)

    Aidan DuPont (Waterford)

    Nathan Johnson (Fitch)

    Andrew Mendez Jr. (New London)

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