‘It’s just surreal:’ Local man to compete for U.S. in Epee Fencing at Summer Olympics

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BEREA, Ohio -- Fourteen Americans will represent the United States in men’s and women’s fencing this year, but just one will represent the U.S. in Men’s Epee Fencing and he hails from Northeast Ohio. He's 28-year-old Jason Pryor of South Euclid.

“It’s just surreal; it hasn’t really sunk in. It happened less than a month ago. You just feel everything all at once,” Pryor said.

Jason began fencing at the age of 11 after quitting soccer. His friend got him hooked on the sport. Three years later, he competed at his first national tournament.

“I got destroyed,” Pryor said. “When you go to a national tournament you just have a local view of what’s going on with fencing.”

Everything changed for Pryor a year later at the age of 15. He competed in the summer nationals in Texas where he finished third in the Cadet event.

“I looked around and you just feel the adrenaline pumping after such an exciting day and that was it. I chased that feeling for years; I’m still chasing that feeling,” he said.

Pryor is ranked 36th in the World. At 5’9’’ and 175, Pryor is one of the smallest fencers in the world heading to Rio.

“If you think about the pressure, the weight of it all, the expectation of the win, the final result, you can’t perform; you can’t think; you can’t do anything. It’s crippling,” Pryor said.

Bill Reith was a staple behind Pryor’s success, teaching him the proper technique at a young age. This is Reith’s third student to be a member of the U.S. Olympic team. He said the key to his success came in an email from his very first student, Mark Griffin, after Pryor qualified for the Olympics.

“He said congratulations; the key is you laid the foundation for these kids all along the way,” Reith said.

Pryor has come a long way from his days at Brush High School where he grew up playing the clarinet in the concert band. Now he’s preparing to perform on the biggest stage representing Northeast Ohio and the United States of America.

“We always knew he would do great things, wasn’t sure about fencing. But he’s a fighter; he’s a competitor, and it’s been gratifying watching his career unfold,” said Jason’s father, Eric.

Now, it’s off to Brazil in August where the rest of the nation will be introduced to Jason Pryor.