Even though Tony Escueta ’25 only started fencing when he was 12, he was one of two Judges who made it to nationals this season, and the only first year.
At the tender age of 12, Escueta and his friends read about Fencing in an online article and found out that “a large percentage of those who fence in high school fence in college,” he told The Brandeis Hoot in a Zoom interview. “It was a great opportunity for me to compete at the [National College Athletic Association] NCAA level,” he continued.
Escueta chose saber because he “was best suited to fence this weapon because of [his] height and flexibility,” He added that the fast space of the weapon made it a lot more exciting to fence than the other two weapons. “In saber you can score with the edge of the blade slash and stab, while with the other two weapons, the competition progresses a lot slower.” In Saber, the target area is anywhere above the waist, which also adds scoring possibilities.
When it came to looking for colleges, Escueta was hoping to find somewhere where he could compete at the NCAA level. When he came to Brandeis, he found that there was “amazing team chemistry and couches who helped foster that.” “It felt like they were invested in recruiting me; they wanted me not as a name on a rooster but as part of a family they had,” said Escueta. The team felt the same way about him: “he came into the program and embraced everything we stand for here at Brandeis,” team captain Maggie Shealy ’23 told The Hoot, “if he was an Uber driver I’d give him five stars.”
At the beginning of the season, Escueta was concerned about securing a travel spot to be able to compete against Division 1 teams. “He is an incredibly hard worker and he’s so humble,” added Shealy. As the season progressed, he was given a travel spot, so Escueta became more and more competitive. His new goal was to make it to regionals. And when that happened, his new goal was to go to the NCAA championships. “Going in I had low expectations but thanks to the support of the team and coaches I was able to attain these unexpected goals and achievements,” said Escueta. His mindset changed many times.
Overall, the season was great for Escueta; “it seems like we have still maintained our sense of comradery and family that we have, [we] returned to as normal of a season as we can get.” He particularly enjoyed getting to practice with the entire team. Shealy added that Escueta is a great addition to the team, and is everyone’s “biggest cheerleader ever [who] brightens up the room when he comes in.”
The day Escueta finished regionals, about 30 minutes after, the coaches told him that “they did the math and [he] qualified.” “I was ecstatic, I did not expect to qualify … I gave everyone a hug,” recalled Escueta. “He is a great addition to the program,” emphasized Shealy, “It is a privilege to be his team captain and teammate.”
Going to nationals as a first year added to the shock and surprise that Escueta felt. “At nationals I was one of three first years in my group … it was great to see that I was one of the only ones,” he said. It appears that the spot was very well deserved; “when it’s go time to work he’s there and he’s always one of the first to respond to anything,” added Shealy.
Once at nationals, he was very nervous, since it was the toughest competition he ever competed in. The added challenge was that it was two consecutive days of competition against the 24 best competitors in the country. “Although I was nervous, I was doing well the entire season, I ignored who I was fencing and I just did the best that I could,” continued Escueta.
Next year, “ideally I would love to not only qualify again, but also place within the top 12 so I could earn All American Honors” said Escueta. “Fencing was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made; I am able to compete and enjoy the sport,” he concluded.