Fresh Off Win Against Beacon, ‘Untouchables’ Look to Carry On Legacy

Despite losing many of their best players from the year before, Stuy’s undefeated boys’ fencing team stepped up in a big way against their rival, Beacon.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

The last time Stuyvesant’s boys’ fencing team lost a game, iPhones didn’t exist yet and Pluto was still considered a planet.

For the past 13 years, the team has been at an incredible 125-0, and with the most recent 80-72 win over rival Beacon High School last Monday, they certainly intend to keep it that way. The team goes beyond merely aiming for a perfect win record—they aim for perfection all around. The maximum score a team can receive is 90, which is something that they have been able to achieve in three out of five matches this year. In fact, the team is satisfied only when they are able to prevent their opponents from getting a single touch on them.

A large part of the team’s undefeated run can be attributed to their coach, Joel Winston, who began coaching the team just a year before the winning streak started. His team only lost two games in his first season coaching, and the rest is history. Winston benefits from the depth of the team, as he is not only able to play completely different sets of fencers for each weapon, but usually uses four or five fencers per weapon even though only three are required.

When asked about the types of players he likes to take, Winston said that he likes fencers to have experience, though only about half of the new players every year have fencing experience outside of school. He also prefers to take freshmen, but this year he brought two juniors on the team who were “in the right place at the right time.”

The team practices five days a week, and athletes are expected to continue their training even in the off-season in order to stay competitive in their division. “One of the best schools in the city, Hunter College High School (Hunter), provides practices and professional coaching for fencing year-round, so it is often hard for Stuy’s team to keep up with them. However, the team’s record does show that we are pretty darn good for a single season team. Brooklyn Technical High School (Tech) also usually has an elite fencing team, with Staten Island Tech usually rounding out the top four of Hunter, Stuy, and Tech each year,” Winston said.

This new season has introduced a new challenger for the team as Beacon High School’s Blue Demons moved into Stuy’s Manhattan/Queens division after having gone 8-2 the past two years in the Manhattan/Bronx division. The two teams had previously been in the same division, and Beacon has been Stuy’s rival for much of their long winning streak. After a relatively easy first four games, in which the lowest Stuy’s team scored was an 89 out of a possible 90, this was the team’s first real test after losing six seniors and all but one of their starters from the year before.

Winston expected a relatively even match and said, “I think their foil team is probably a little better, and I think our epee team is better.” The team rose to the occasion, and the win over Beacon provided a sense of validation for a group of fencers that has to uphold a legacy of perfection. To add on to the moment after the Beacon win, Stuy’s team again scored 90 points against Information Technology High School just two days later in a game where they played primarily with fencers that were new to the team.

To senior and captain Taaseen Ali, the win meant more than just another victory on their record. It meant that this team, with almost all new starters, was up to the Stuy standard. Beacon’s team had “a couple nationally ranked A-rated fencers, which is really only a step or two down from the Olympics,” Ali said. For the first time in his four years on the team, he entered a game unsure of a victory.

But the uncertainty Ali felt only made victory sweeter, and after coming onto the team as a freshman who had never fenced before, “four years later, standing as the captain of a varsity team with 13 undefeated seasons was so validating,” he said. As they defeated Beacon’s Blue Devils, Stuy’s team cheered under a name of their own, even though they lack an official nickname according to PSAL. They’ve gone by the Garden Snakes, Iron Velociraptors, Blue Eyed White Dragons, and many other names, but for the most important matches, they are always, ‘The Untouchables.’ Despite a new rival and almost all new starters, Stuyvesant’s team was untouchable yet again.