By Austin Block
It seems like it all comes down to friends and family. Without a friend to suggest that Michael Raynis â10 give fencing a try, he might never have become the highest ranked high school senior fencer in the nation. If he didnât have family in Korea to visit during the summer after seventh grade, he might never have developed a passion for fencing and won several North American championships, a national championship, and the Junior Olympics. But those events did come to pass, and now Raynis harbors dreams of competing in the Olympics.
“I really want to shoot for 2012, but whether or not thatâs a realistic goal, Iâll find out in a couple of years,” Raynis said.
Raynis is currently ranked third in the nation for all epÃ©e fencers 20 and under and first in the nation for all high school seniors. This summer, he placed second in the National Championships, a competition for all ages in which he defeated an Olympic fencer. He also placed in the top 16 of a Senior (adult) World Cup in Buenos Aires over the summer.
Raynis agreed to commit to Harvard this fall after being recruited.
Raynis said he wasnât really good at fencing when he first started and was considering quitting by the time summer rolled around after seventh grade. While in Korea visiting relatives that summer, he participated in a serious Korean fencing program for about a month.
“They took fencing along with every other sport they do extremely seriously and whereas I was just sort of goofing around in middle school my first two years they were like gung-ho, weâre going to win the Olympics,” Raynis said.
He came back to the United States a “considerably better” fencer.
“The dynamics of fencing alone are so unique,” Raynis said. “I donât think you have any other sport where itâs basically a one-on-one fight but relatively safe. Itâs not as intense as say karate or any type of sparring sport and yet it sort of has its own artistic quality to it.”
He missed two days of school in October to compete in one of the international fencing organizationâs junior world cups in Slovakia. He bowed out in the first elimination round.
Raynis said he has made a number of friends from a variety of countries, including England, Switzerland, Sweden, Germany, and Kazakhstan.
“I think itâs one of the more enjoyable aspects of competing abroad,” he said. “I have a lot of friends from other countries, some of whom I can hardly speak to, but somehow we manage to bond and laugh together in our own strange way.”