Zach Suico lunges at life

The senior’s journey from a gym class phenom to an elite fencing competitor

As a fencer who has reached the global stage, Zach Suico is one of the highest-level athletes at Strath Haven. Suico confirms that he has ranked first in the state of Pennsylvania, third in the most competitive six-state region, and thirty-eighth nationally. Since he has dual-citizenship, he was able to represent the Philippines at World events in Luxembourg and Switzerland. 

Despite this remarkable standing, it seems that he’s under-recognized in our community; many people don’t know about his fencing, perhaps because of the sport’s relatively low publicity or lack of school affiliation. 

“It’s hard to bring club sports into school because there’s no senior night,” Suico said, adding that he only shares his fencing accomplishments when others ask about them. 

This speaks to another reason not everyone knows about SHHS’s star fencer: Suico’s humility. 

Though he would likely (and characteristically) deny this, Suico does not draw attention to his talent; in fact, he notes that he “wouldn’t even say talent,” once referring to it as “somewhat of a skill.” 

But Zach’s aptitude for fencing is undeniable; he was discovered in sixth-grade gym class with Ms. Roane, a former elite fencer, who immediately saw his potential. 

“I had no experience with fencing, but we started learning footwork and blade work, and [Ms. Roane] thought I started picking it up a little bit faster than other people, so she invited me to join the recreational club outside of school,” Suico explains. 

However, Zach did not fit the mold of most competitive fencers, who participate in an individual sport that requires significant expenses for coaching, travel, and equipment. 

Suico explains that many fencers from across the East Coast become prodigies at a young age. He quickly caught up with other fencers as his training regimen intensified. 

“When I started, it was two hours of practice three days a week, and it was something I did for fun,” but as competitions were added to the schedule, “I moved over to places in Long Island and New Jersey, where the practices were getting more intense,” he said. 

Suico’s weekly commitments are now quite consuming. During the week, he spends hours driving to another state for two to three hour practices, often starting his homework at 11 P.M., or he works out independently on his one “off” day. Over the weekend, he usually travels for a tournament or drives to New York for practice. 

During his many commutes, Suico shares, “I often say I do a lot of homework, but… I usually just sleep because it’s also my only time to catch up.” 

Still, he says academics come first, followed by fencing, and lastly, friends and other activities, which Suico recognizes “is pretty brutal to say.” 

“But, I’ve been told that there’s a price to pay to become a good athlete, and I definitely see it because the more practice I put in, the less time I have outside of school but the better I do in fencing,” he said. 

Suico’s results certainly demonstrate that his fencing has improved with increased training and experience. 

“Over time, it went from competing locally, to competing regionally, and then competing nationally, and more recently, competing on the world circuit for my age group,” Suico said. 

Suico says that although the Luxembourg competition is his biggest accomplishment on paper, “on a personal basis, my biggest achievement would actually be winning this competition called Capitol Clash, which is the biggest youth circuit in the country.” Over four years of attending the annual tournament, he saw encouraging results, as he gradually improved from 250th out of 250 to bringing home first place. 

“Seeing my placements getting better each time was a physical representation of how my fencing was getting better,” he expressed. 

As Suico’s parents began to notice his potential, they pushed him in the right direction, a presence to which he attributes much of his success. Suico’s mom worked to manage the family’s scheduling, while his dad was dedicated to learning about fencing and has been one of Zach’s most influential coaches. 

“I think without my family’s support, I wouldn’t be given the opportunities I am today. For someone who was very young, not knowing how things worked, it was very helpful that they always tried their best to help me,” Suico said. 

As a senior, Suico is looking into the future, and considering that he “has a conflicted relationship with fencing” due to the immense pressure and time commitment, he is not sure what role the sport will play in his life moving forward. 

“I’m applying to schools that don’t have a competitive fencing team, but I’m also applying to schools with a competitive fencing team. Some people might say it’s a waste of… I wouldn’t even say talent, but an opportunity to succeed in fencing, but it’s something that I’m not sure I even want to pursue in the future,” Suico said. 

Suico must also consider fencing after graduation, as he is already eligible to represent the Philippines’ international team. No matter what he decides, Suico’s experience with fencing has been especially formative and allowed him to grow into the admirable person his peers know him to be. 

“In middle school, and especially elementary school, I was really shy and introverted, but for some reason, when I started fencing, it gave me more confidence in myself, to not only talk to other people but to be proud of myself,” he said. 

He adds, “Fencing really taught me about pushing myself and how pushing myself out of my comfort zone can really help me with other things in life.”