Royal OakJune 18, 2012
Local fencers slash way to Nationals
By Chris Jackett
C & G Staff Writer
ROYAL OAK — When the U.S. Fencing Association’s Summer Nationals begin next week in Anaheim, a handful of local teens will be present, including Royal Oak resident Wiley Dressell.
Dressell, 14, is headed to Nationals for the second straight year after picking up the sport two years ago. However, he’s not a novice by any means. He grew up watching fencing at the Renaissance Fencing Club in Troy where his dad, Todd Dressell, has been the head sabre coach since it opened in 1997. With more than 25 years in the sport, including some as a competitive fencer, Todd is also the University of Detroit Mercy fencing coach for the past 16 years.
“I’ve kind of grown up in a fencing club because my dad runs it,” Wiley said. “When you’re home, he’s dad, but when you’re there, he’s coach and you address him as such.”
Like his dad, Wiley is a fast-paced sabre fencer, as opposed to the foil or épée styles, which are slower and use only the tip of the sword.
“My dad did have little bit of an influence on me; but watching it, it’s a lot more fast. I find it’s more enjoyable, at least to me,” Wiley said of his choice between the three styles. “With foil and épée, you have to hit with the tip, whereas a saber you can hit with the whole blade. Épée puts me to sleep. Foil’s a little faster paced, but it’s more back and forth.”
An average sabre battle lasts 30-60 seconds, while a foil or épée match often hits the three-minute time limit.
Wiley qualified for the national competition in both the Div. II/III men’s sabre and U14 men’s sabre categories, earning first place in the U14 regional competition in Flint last October before placing well in the Div. II/III regional division qualifier March in Grand Rapids.
In his national debut, Wiley finished in the top 80 percent last year, which he estimates as finishing 130th of 160 fencers. He hopes to break the 100 mark and maybe even the top half June 29-July 8 in California.
Teammate Austin Carlisle of Troy will also be competing in the Div. II/III men’s sabre at Nationals. Younger brother Wyatt Dressell will also be competing in the U12 men’s sabre.
“Me and him, we’re pretty good together and we train a lot,” Wiley said of Carlisle. “We’re pretty good friends and pretty good sparring partners. I felt really good. I’ve really tried to pick up my training. I hadn’t gotten much practice before Nationals (last year).”
His father said his son’s goals for Nationals next week are reachable, and that’s the coach side of him talking.
“Top half is a real reachable goal. Top third is reaching it,” Todd said.
Despite his deep-rooted connection to fencing, Todd didn’t always think his two sons would follow in his footsteps, nor did he try to force them to.
“He’s literally grown up in the fencing club,” Todd said of Wiley. “He did it from time to time. It’s important for him to find his own passion. He’s done baseball and soccer.
“The idea of trying to not be the prototypical little league father living his sports dream through his child is something I desperately wanted to avoid. I am very proud he decided to do it. There’s no more satisfying thing than watching your son grow and mature in the sports that you love. As the dad, I’m thrilled that they’re excited about fencing at the national stage.”
Wiley, who will be a freshman at Royal Oak High School in the fall, said he hopes to continue developing through high school so he can be an Olympic candidate for the 2016 games.
“This being an Olympic year, we’re all very attuned to that,” Todd said, noting that U.S. fencing surpassed France at the 2008 Olympics. “We’re getting better and better. Getting there is very hard. To get there, that is a lot of work, a lot of talent and a lot of luck; you have to fence well at the right time.”
But Wiley is up for the challenge, starting next week in Anaheim.
“We’re looking to have a pretty competitive group and doing well,” Todd said.
Other qualifiers include Graem Block (Shelby Township) in foil, and Magnus Block (Shelby Township), Megan Furst (Lake Orion) and Alex Tilford (Rochester Hills), all in sabre.
For more information on the Renaissance Fencing Club, call (248) 930-0747 or visit www. renaissancefencing.com.
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