When Matthew Gebbett was 12 years old and in middle school, he went looking for a new sport.
“I was browsing through the newspaper looking for a new sport,” he said. “Just a few weeks before that, I saw fencing on television and thought that that looks pretty cool.”
Now, at 17 and a senior at Blue Valley Southwest, Gebbett is a national fencing champion in saber. He won a gold medal competing in Division II at the North American Cup (NAC) in Milwaukee in October.
In fencing bouts, 15 is a winning score, with a halftime break at eight. To score a point or a touch, fencers must hit the opponent before being hit.
Winning the national title wasn’t an easy task.
“In the last 32, I came upon a strong fencer,” Gebbett said. “I thought the referee was being biased toward him. I had to overcome a strong fencer with an unfair advantage. I managed to win 15-13.”
When he reached the semifinals, he met Nick Carothers, another fencer from the Kansas City Fencing Center in Overland Park.
“He is a good friend,” Gebbett said. “Fencing Nick allowed me to relax and not worry at all about the tournament.
“I beat Nick and went into the final in complete tranquility, allowing me to win the final bout 15-6.”
Carothers finished third in the competition in Milwaukee.
KCFC executive coach Kelly Williams said, “Matthew is one of the better athletes we have had the pleasure of working with here. He is a great athlete and understands the game.
“He has a keen sense of tactics and reads his opponents well. Those are the skills that make him a great fencer.”
What does Gebbett think is his biggest strength?
“It is my ability to work extremely well under pressure,” he said. “I can be down 14-9 and still come out as strong as I did on the first touch. Mainly I need to work on staying calm during a tournament and not getting upset with the referee.”
Gebbett is hopeful that he can fence in college.