Junior Ryan Scharf Places Second for DHS Fencing Team in the Georgia High School Fencing League January Tournament


Junior Ryan Scharf (close left), gives advice and technique lessons to the DHS fencing club member, Aiden Oldham (close right).

Grant Whitley

On Jan. 14, Decatur High School (DHS) junior Ryan Scharf placed second in the most recent Georgia High School Fencing League (GHSFL) tournament hosted by Pinecrest Academy.

In the weeks prior to his second-place performance, Scharf competed in three GHSFL tournaments for the DHS fencing team this school year, placing first, third and fifth amongst 90 other competitors.

Fencing is an individual sport, but in the GHSFL, teams are ranked based on the composite performance of the team. For individual placements, an elimination-style tournament is held after group stages. Group stages are non-elimination games held before the tournament to rank the participating fencers. Depending on the number of points scored, how many matches won, and how many points scored against, the student is then ranked in their group stage. 

Each touch during a fencing match counts as one point and during group stages the winner is announced after a player reaches 5 points. For elimination matches the first player to earn 15 points moves on to the next round.

At the end of group stages, the elimination tournament begins. In this elimination tournament, the lowest-ranked athletes face the highest-ranked (from group stages) and the matches continue until there is one winner remaining.

In team competitions, the DHS fencing team has also been on the podium for the last three events. The team brought home bronze in the October tournament, gold in the December tournament and silver in the January tournament.

Tournaments are held every 3-4 weeks on Saturday mornings in schools around the Metro Atlanta area. The DHS fencing club meets in the DHS Performing Arts Center on Wednesdays from 4:00 to 5:30 pm for practice. In practice, they prepare for the GHSFL tournaments as well as hone their skills as fencers through drills and practice matches. 

Scharf began fencing as a 7th grade student at Beacon Hill Middle School, where his efforts qualified him for the national tournament in his first year of the sport. Scharf competes annually on the national level and is a top-level fencer in the state of Georgia. 

In addition to Scharf’s state and national accomplishments, he has been invited to compete at the international level in the Junior Olympics.

“I plan to fence in college and I’m talking to a few colleges right now,” Scharf said. 

Scharf has also played a role in increasing awareness and membership of the club.

“One day in electronics class, Ryan gave a presentation about the fencing club last year and I thought it was pretty cool, and at the beginning of this year I decided to join the club,” DHS fencing club member Dylan O’Neal said.

For O’Neal, fencing provides a different athletic experience than other sports he’s played.

“Fencing is a lot more technical than other sports I’ve tried,” O’Neal said, “It’s not really about being strong or big, if you want to win you have to have strategy and have good technique.” 

The surge in interest has grown the fencing club to around 20 members, many of whom joined at the beginning of the 2022-23 school year. 

“Decatur fencing has changed a lot in the last few years,” Scharf said, “Our team has doubled in size since last year and [we have] a way better [practice] space. We are also going out to competitions as a team this year, and we have other people going to the state championship.”