Fantastic fencing for Battle Mountain
EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado – Michael Weiss stood on the podium, among the best young fencers in the nation, as long lists of their accomplishments were recited.
This was Weiss’s first national championship tournament, so his list was pretty short.
“What’s your greatest tournament experience?” they asked.
“This one!” he said excitedly.
Weiss finished fourth in the nation at last weekend’s national fencing championships, topping an eye-popping effort by the Battle Mountain High School fencing club.
“The talk of the tournament was these unrated fencers from Vail, Colorado coming here and doing an incredible job,” said coach Don Watson. “We were eliminating some of the top-rated fencers all over the place.”
Battle Mountain sent the only epee team where all the fencers were from the same high school, and finished third in the nation.
“We could have recruited some star from Denver, but the kids decided they wanted to keep the team comprised of athletes recruited from different schools,” Watson said. “Our boys were on the podium wearing those Battle Mountain jackets, and they looked pretty darned good.”
The competition lasted two days, opening with the individual rounds, then the team competition. The individual rounds started with a pool, and the best fencers advanced to a one-and-out tournament. All three Battle Mountain boys made that.
Levi Gilbert made it to the second round, finishing 12th; Weiss to the final four. Both lost to the eventual national champion. Trevor Davidson finished 28th in the nation.
On the girls side, Brooke Strehler was 10th in the nation and Noel Smith was 12th.
In that men’s team competition, the Battle Mountain boys made the podium with their third place finish, but the road was rocky.
They fence 45-point matches – three rounds of 15 points each. Compile the points and the one with the most points wins.
Battle Mountain was three points out of second place, and had a legitimate shot at the national title well into the final team competition, Watson said.
“Trevor pulled a move he’d only heard about. The whole crowd cheered,” Watson said. “Weiss put together a 14-point comeback.”
When it was done, parents were walking up to Watson and assistant coach Cooter Overcash and asking what they thought their sons could do better.
“I feel like Cooter and I have been building a car and this is the first time we put gas in it,” Watson said.
Competing that well in Battle Mountain’s first national tournament is the stuff of dreams, Watson said, but he had a few high-anxiety moments leading up to it.
“I had nightmares about not scoring a winner, about going the entire tournament and not scoring a point,” Watson said chuckling. “It was so wonderful to show up and compete so well. We’re on top of the world. The more I think about it, the prouder I am.”