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Young Fencer Achieves Milestone

Jack Woods, 10, of Maplewood, is the youngest "B" rated fencer in the USA.

Most children are merely content with pretending to be knights. 

Jack Woods, 10, of Maplewood, took things one step further and enrolled in foil lessons three years ago at the New Jersey Fencing Alliance

"When I started fencing, I thought of it as knights fighting dragons," Woods said. "I just like the whole style and how you move on the strip. I like the idea and it has a beat to it."

The young athlete practices fencing five to six days a week. Woods has criss-crossed the country for dozens of competitions and won numerous awards.

All of Jack's hard work work recently paid off when he earned a "B" rating - one level below the highest fencing level - at the 2012 Cobra Super Youth Circuit Competition in Jersey City in April.

He also earned a gold medal for the men's foil event for youths 10 and under, a gold medal for the men's foil event for youths 12 and under, and a bronze medal for the men's foil event for youths 14 and under. His next competition is the summer nationals, which will be held in July in California. 

Jack is currently the youngest "B" rated fencer in the United States Fencing Association, which has about 19,646 members, according to Nicole Jomantas, USA Fencing communications manager. There are 352 members who are in the foil division.

To put things in perspective, a "B" rating is one step below the best, an "A" rating, the level of competative fencers, said Frank Mustilli, head coach and owner of New Jersey Fencing Alliance. Mustilli is Jack's former coach and he teaches Jack's older brother, Harry, Sabre fencing.

Mustilli said most fencers start around eight years-old, and, if they practice dilligently, they could get a "B" rating by the time they are 16 or 18-years-old. 

Mustilli called Jack an "energetic, diligent athlete" who has been "blowing past every barrier in front of him." 

What the fencing teacher admired most about Jack is his persistence and how he doesn't let the competition and stress get him down.

"(When) Jack has finished an extremely difficult bout and comes off the strip totally exhausted, he will play a computer game and totally forget about the bout," Mustilli said. "He goes into a different zone and goes (back) on the strip with the same intensity."  

Jack's father, Ross Woods, admires his son's tenacity as well. "Jack suffers from no nerves," Woods said. "He's truly amazing. He's undaunted by larger or smaller fencers."

His mother, Krysia Woods, said it's wonderful that Jack is passionate about fencing and she's noticed that it has given him more maturity. 

Jack said he thinks fencing is a great sport and he plans to continue with it through middle school, high school and college, maybe even the Olympics. 

"I want to be a world champion fencer," Jack said. "But I still have a lot of time to make that decision."

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