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April 7, 2014
By Astrid Diaz, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After an extensive two years and a long season full of trials and tribulations, the Penn State fencing team brought back home the NCAA title trophy and sent off their graduating seniors with the right to call themselves winners.
Penn State is now the most successful program in all of collegiate fencing with 13 national titles and fencing is the only sport at the university to reach such a successful milestone.
However, the road to the 2014 national title was not an easy one and with a rough start to the season, the seniors, the leaders, and the coaches had to step up to the plate and fight.
Coach Wieslaw `Wes' Glon was named interim head coach of the team at the beginning of the season and while leadership is nothing new for Glon, the change brought a trail of adjustments a big part of what meant a lot of paperwork.
"The beginning was tough. I didn't want to do the administrative part. There are so many compliances and everyday I came into the office and there were so many emails," said Glon. "It was affecting the because I didn't have enough time to spend with them. The kids were getting the short end of the stick."
In order to ease the transition, Glon and the coaching staff got together to finish the hectic administrative part of his new job and then got right back in the field with the athletes.
"They put me in front of the steering wheel. Sometimes it slipped but once I got the team fully behind and on the same page, it was all smooth forward. They knew exactly where we were going and what we are going to achieve," Glon said.
The last time Penn State won a national title in fencing (2010), the 15 seniors on the team were still in high school and only dreamed of being national champions. This year, as they all entered their final season with the Nittany Lions, they knew this would be their last opportunity to not only leave their mark but to walk away with a ring.
"They were so dedicated. The seniors were pushing the younger ones. This is their last year, [they] had to do it," said Glon. "I told them: If you want to win, I can only help you but, actually, it's up to you. You need to want it more than the coach."
And so they did.
The team is still enjoying their achievements and will do so for a long time, but along with the team's victory, sophomore Kaito Streets took home the national title in saber.
"He wasn't the favorite, you know," said Glon. "The pressure was on the seniors because it was their last time. They went there to win. Kaito went there to help the team and support in every way he could. He's young. There are other fencers that went in there with more experience that were expected to win. After a while we started adding up the numbers and said `wow, he could win this thing'."
And so he did.
With young student-athletes more fueled than ever, the future of the fencing team is looking nothing but positive and Glon plans to be there every step of the way.
"I hope to continue the great tradition no matter who is behind the steering wheel...The great tradition at Penn State. [The student-athletes] know they are Penn State and, even though on paper the may not look like they should win, they believe it. They have a winning attitude. Winning is an attitude, you know" Glon said.
Glon has been with the Nittany Lions for 29 seasons. He has seen all 13 national titles. He was there all eight times when the Nittany Lions came in second place and he has seen countless fencers grow, mature, and move on to the next part of their career. Nevertheless, the feeling of victory never gets old.
"It feels great. We worked for it. Once you work for something, once you dream about something, once you reach it... It's an incredible relief and after the relief comes great happiness," said Glon. "You can never get used to it."
The beginning of the season was tough for both Glon and the team. They went through their fair share of adversity and had to build a successful season on what seemed to but a feeble foundation. Still, though, they stayed strong and focused on the goal and made the 2013-'14 one of the best ones yet.