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USA Fencing Selects Third Quarter Spirit of Sport Recipients

05/08/2017, 12:15pm CDT
By Kristen Henneman

USA Fencing is pleased to announce the third group of recipients for the “Fencing Spirit of Sport” Recognition Program, honoring six members of the fencing community from across the nation who have exemplified outstanding dedication to the sport and are an inspiration to others.

Each quarter, one recipient from each region is chosen based on commitment to the sport as well as his or her club, sportsmanship, leadership, teamwork and character.

The six recipients for the third quarter’s “Fencing Spirit of Sport Award” are as follows:

  • Matthew Comes (Bothell, Wash.)
  • Andy Tulluners (Cleveland, Ohio)
  • Jim Ferrone (Lambertville, N.J.)
  • Bryce Chen (Campbell, Calif.)
  • Jessica Paige Thow (Spring, Texas)
  • Jimmy Wallace (Alpharetta, Ga.)

All selections will be honored at the 2017 Summer Nationals in Salt Lake City and receive a USA Fencing “Spirit of Sport” t-shirt and bag tag.

Nominations for the fourth quarter are due June 1. The nomination form can be found here.

Click here to view the selections from the first two quarters.

More information on each of our winners can be found below:

Matthew Comes (left)

Region 1: Matthew Comes
Club: Washington Fencing Academy
Age: 18
Weapon: Epee
Number of Years Fencing: Six
Nominated By:  John Comes (Father)

Matthew Comes has gone above and beyond in helping others, leading weekly camps at his club after his season is over. His encouragement, kindness and acceptance has led many new fencers to continue in the sport. A 3.98 student who takes AP classes while also being highly involved in his school’s marching, jazz, orchestra and concert bands, Comes displays a high level of sportsmanship at tournaments. For example, at a recent North American Cup, Comes rebounded from a tough direct elimination loss to coach the same fencer in his next bouts.

“During off days at NACs, he’ll head to the venue to cheer on fencers from our club and friends he’s made at competitions and training camps,” said John Comes. “He offers input and advice to other fencers. He understands by helping others improve, his fencing will benefit.”

Andy Tulluners

Region 2: Andy Tulluners
Club: Cleveland State University
Age: 45
Weapon: Foil
Nominated By: Adam Mack (Sophomore at Cleveland State University)

Currently the associate head coach at Cleveland State University, Tulluners has been involved with the Vikings fencing program for more than eight years. Known for his incredible passion for the sport, he dedicates many hours of his personal time to helping the team grow and succeed. He genuinely cares about the individuals on the team and cares about his students’ success both on the strip and off, taking the time to ask about how they are doing in the classroom and at home.

“His love and passion for the sport is amazing,” Mack said. “He always says ‘If you are having half as much fun as I am than that was a good day!’”

Jim Ferrone

Region 3: Jim Ferrone
Club: Bucks County Academy of Fencing
Age: 43
Weapon: Epee
Number of Years Fencing: 30
Nominated By: Lisa Martini (Club Co-owner)

In 2009, Ferrone suffered a stroke. Rather than feeling bad for himself, Ferrone approached his recovery with a positive attitude and was coaching again within a year. This past March, Ferrone returned to competition for the first time since his stroke, competing at the Bucks County Fencing Academy’s Mitch Davis Memorial Foil Competition. The tournament was organized by Ferrone as a fundraiser to honor the memory of another coach at the club, Mitch Davis, who passed away last August due to stroke related complications. All money went to the National Stroke Association.

In 2009, age 35, this fit, athletic, A-rated USFA competitive fencer suffered a stroke and has struggled in many different ways in his recovery in a most uncomplaining manner,” said Martini. “He has raised almost $6000. We are so very proud of Jim!”

Bryce Chen (left)

Region 4: Bryce Chen
Club: Academy of Fencing Masters
Age: 13
Weapon: Foil
Number of Years Fencing: Three and a half
Nominated By: Irina Chirashnya (Club Owner)

While in Taiwan in 2015 for his grandfather's memorial service, Chen became unconscious and was diagnosed with brain cancer, requiring emergency surgery in Taiwan. For one year, Chen fought for his life, undergoing numerous chemotherapy and radiology treatments. Chen beat cancer, motivated by his love for fencing and his desire to return to the strip. In September of 2016, he returned to training and began to compete with the goal to qualifying for the 2017 National Championships. Chen has now completed his goal, earning a spot in the Y12 men’s foil competition in Salt Lake City through regional points.

“He is always positive, always smiles. He went through so much pain in his life and he never stopped fighting and dreaming,” Chirashnya said. “He is our hero. [In mid-April] Bryce turned 13 and I believe this nomination would be a celebration of spirit and life.”

Jessica Paige Thow

Region 5: Jessica Paige Thow
Club: Alliance Fencing Academy
Age: 17
Weapon: Epee
Number of Years Fencing: Seven
Nominated By: Paul and Sara Thow (Parents), Fiona Scott (Grandmother)

Despite battling ankle and knee injuries and needing several surgeries, Jessica Thow has never given up on fencing. Even when she is out for months at a time and unable to walk, she always works hard to come back and return to the sport she loves, competing nationally and internationally. While sidelined, Thow continues to support her fellow fencers, going to her club to encourage, guide and coach the younger athletes. She also helps with classes and tournaments.

She has with hard work and determination achieved such a lot,” Scott said. “She has had to have some surgeries that have meant that for some months at a time she has been unable to fence, but her hard work ethic meant that when she returned she was able to retain her ranking.”

Jimmy Wallace (middle)

Region 6: Jimmy Wallace
Club: Dunwoody Fencing Club
Age: 18
Weapon: Epee
Number of Years Fencing: 10
Nominated By: Kathy Vail (Club Owner) and John Stephens (Coach)

Wallace has shown incredible loyalty to his club, always willing to work with other fencers and patiently give less experienced fencers proper direction. A friend to everyone, he has also designed a scoring box used at the club and referees during in-house tournaments. At club competitions, he is the first to arrive and the last to leave, taking the time to ensure new fencers have a positive experience. Outside the club, Wallace has worked to grow fencing in his community, founding a fencing team at his high school and helping in demonstrations in the community.

“Jimmy Wallace is a talented fencer who loves our sport,” Vail said. “He is always willing to be part of any fencing demonstration for community, Scouts, or school. With athleticism and a sense of humor, he always gets an audience involved and shows them just how much fun fencing can be. Over the 10 years that I have coached Jimmy, he has always stepped up to represent.”

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