Buckeye fencer Jason Pryor sparks curiosity and questions in demonstration to teens
By Tim Stried, Ohio State Athletics Communications
NEW PHILADELPHIA, Ohio For almost two hours on a hot, summer afternoon, Ohio State’s Jason Pryor kept them on the edge of their seats as he turned the garage of this small town’s public library into his own fencing class. And by the time the group of 46 teenagers left the building, the sport of fencing had a new fan club.
As part of the New Philadelphia Public Library’s summer teen reading program, Pryor was asked to visit this northeastern Ohio town last week and demonstrate the sport which has taken him to competitions around the country and to two Top 20 finishes at the NCAA championships. Pryor, an epee fencer who will be a junior this fall, is part of an OSU fencing program that has finished among the Top 5 in the nation the last five years.
“Fencing is a complex sport, but at the same time it’s also a lot like boxing,” Pryor began telling the captivated audience as he let the teens pass around his fencing equipment. “It is a very physical sport. Most people wouldn’t think so, but it is.”
And with that, Pryor not only described the scoring system for a fencing bout but showed off the moves that have helped him compile an 83-22 record during his first two seasons at Ohio State.
With a show of hands, the entire class confirmed they were well aware of the Ohio State football team’s success, which has included the last two Big Ten titles. They were then impressed to learn the OSU fencing team has won five consecutive Midwest Conference championships.
“You know when everyone was screaming and rushing the field when the football team beat Michigan and won the Big Ten? It’s like that, kind of,” Pryor said to the chuckle of the students. “I wish it was that big, anyway.”
Pryor, who is a native of Cleveland, said he got involved in fencing when he grew tired of soccer and decided to give up the sport, only to receive an order from his parents that he could quit soccer only if he picked up another sport.
“So I tried to come up with the most obscure sport I could think of,” Pryor said. “I picked fencing thinking there wouldn’t be a team in my area to practice with. But my parents found a fencing club nearby and I started going there and before I knew it, I was competing in national tournaments.”
He described the three types of weapons the epee, foil and sabre and the different scoring systems and regulations that go along with each type.
“But enough about rules,” Pryor said. “That is the most boring part any way. Let’s talk about the attack, which is the most basic and elegant move in fencing.”
Pryor’s demonstration lasted about 30 minutes, then the teens had their chance to ask questions. More than 45 minutes later, they were still asking questions.
“How much does a sword cost?” a student asked.
“That is one of the most painful questions in fencing,” Pryor lamented before explaining the costs associated with fencing equipment and the even more expensive travel that is associated with national and international travel.
“A mask could cost around $150 and a jacket around $250,” Pryor said. “A good blade is around $80 and no, they don’t last forever. I once broke five blades in one bout and it was like a piece of my soul died.”
“Are there levels for handicapped people?” another student asked.
“Yes there are, including wheel chair divisions,” Pryor explained. “But I will never forget when I fenced a one-armed man. Before the match, I thought, this is going to be cake.’ And never, never have I had my butt whopped so bad as by that one-armed man.”
The teens were slow to leave and the questions continued. Some of the demonstrations during the summer had met in the library’s conference room, but when the sign-up sheet went over 40 names, the organizers had to move the afternoon to the garage.
Other demonstrations during the summer reading program have included a program with the local sheriff’s department on detective work, a craft day, a cooking class and other sport classes, but nothing like fencing.
“I had only seen fencing in movies,” Natasha Stover, 15, said after Pryor’s demonstration. “I had no idea things like leg position were so important. My brother and I mess around with sticks in the back yard, but this was amazing. I am interested in getting a book on fencing and learning more about the sport.”
Darlene Dotto, one of the reading program’s organizers, was impressed with Pryor’s demonstration.
“Jason did a great job and you can tell by the fact the kids asked a lot of questions,” Dotto said. “We look for things that might be interesting for the teens and might open doors for them to get involved with. They got to participate in his demonstration and this was definitely a success.”
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