Behind the mask with Michael Pearce

Q: How did you get into fencing? It’s not something you pick up on the playground.

A: I moved to San Francisco when I was six. I used to love playing with swords and Legos, and my mom signed me with a coach who was teaching fencing at the Jewish Community Center.

Michael Pearce ’09, a first-team All-Ivy selection last season, lunges during a bout against NYU on Nov. 30, 2006.
Matthew Lucas
Michael Pearce ’09, a first-team All-Ivy selection last season, lunges during a bout against NYU on Nov. 30, 2006.

Q: What is fencing like? And what do you have to do to be successful at it?

A: It’s a very mental game. You’re always setting your opponent up for the next point. You have to think very quickly, and the footwork is very fast. It’s a very anaerobic sport — lots of sprinting, starting and stopping — but very mental.

Q: What are your expectations for this upcoming season?

A: We are returning everyone except for two people. We’ve got one freshman who is already in his groove. He’s taking a lead and getting the victories when he needs to. We have another guy who was an alternate last year but is a starter this year and is stepping up. We definitely hope to improve upon last year’s finish.

Q: Any personal goals?

A: I’d like to be named first-team All Ivy again. My freshman year I was first-team All Ivy, and then my sophomore year I was second-team All Ivy. I’d like to get back up to first team. I was also first-team NCAA All American, and I’d like to get back up to that.

Q: What are your aspirations in fencing beyond the collegiate level?

A: I was on the U.S. Junior National Travel team for six years. I’d like to make the senior travel team.

Q: Is there a lot of trash-talking in fencing? And do you participate in it?

A: I don’t really think there’s a lot of trash-talking going on. It’s sort of like screaming in the heat of the moment. Each person has their own personal scream. It’s not a conscious thing — it just happens kind of naturally and develops after you win a hard-fought point.

Q: How’s the team chemistry this year?

A: The team captains have been doing a good job of keeping team morale up and practice fun. It’s really showing up in the way we fence.

Q: Any weird superstitions or rituals before matches or tournaments?

A: I don’t cut my fingernails a week before the match. When I was younger, I used to cut my fingernails really short and it used to hurt when I held the sword. I also change my T-shirt after every round in a multi-round tournament. It just feels good to be in a dry T-shirt. I always watch a violent movie the night before a match.

Q: Any particular movie you watch?

A: Braveheart.

Q: What is the most bizarre place you’ve been?

A: Bratislava, Slovakia, for a tournament with the junior national team. I went to a lot of European places for tournaments with the junior national team.

Q: What is your funniest fencing-related story?

A: We were fencing NYU at home. All my friends were heckling the NYU players. They were chanting “klutz” because this guy’s last name was Lutz. And against Sacred Heart, there was this was guy with a gold sword who we called “Rufio.”

Q: What is your proudest fencing moment?

A: Summer Nationals. We were fencing a team event with kids from San Franciso. We were down by 10 points with three minutes left and I outscored the other kid, 15-2, to win the match.

Q: As a frame of reference, how many points would be normal in that time span?

A: Normally, people can get to five points or so in three minutes.

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