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The score stood tied, 2-2, and I had All-American saberman Larry Cetrulo on the run. He was obviously seared; after a series of attacks he had failed to parry the last one, and I had cut him. A CRIMSON sports-type was about to upset one of the best sabermen in the country.
Thirty seconds later, Larry had changed the visions to nightmares as he ended the bout with two cuts that hit the top of my head, and the final touch which started out as a feint to the head but ended as a cut to the chest, which later developed in to a scarlet welt.
Larry took off his mask and said something like, "Good job kid, you have a keen sense of survival."
Displaying the naivete (or ignorance) that a good number of Americans have about the complexity and difficulty of fencing, I felt that my childhood experiences at playing the neighborhood Zorro would be more than enough to hold off Cetrulo.
On the strip Wednesday afternoon, with sweat dripping down my head, the welt' on my chest, a cut on the index finger of my free hand, and a general feeling of claustrophobia as I looked out of the cage that protected my head, I realized, as Falstaff had, that honor is only a word. Battle is only for fools.
Unlike my Mitty-like excursions in-to the complex world of fencing, Larry comes from a long line of established fencing masters. His grandfather, the head of an Italian clan that had emigrated to America, felt that fencing would keep the family together. He taught his sons to fence, and they, in turn, taught their sons.
Both generations dominated the sport in Newark, in particular, and America in general. Newark's Barringer High School won over 200 consecutive matches between 1921 and 1931 when Larry's father and uncles attended the high school.
Larry's brother and cousins ran up a string of 120 consecutive victories when they attended Barringers in the late '50's. One uncle went to the Berlin Olympics in 1936; another one went to London for the Olympics in 1948 Larry's brother led Columbia to a national championship, and was chosen for the 1964 Olympics but did not participate.
As the baby of the family, Larry was not forced to compete in fencing. His-grandfather-was-getting kind of old, and the family pressure had lessened. Larry took up the sport be cause he loved it.
His father could not teach him, so Larry learned from masters that had learned from his grandfather. It was evident that he had a great deal of natural talent. Throughout high school he demolished his opponents at foil. In his last year at high school. Larry participated in the National Junior Olympics and at the Martini and Rossi World Championships.
Larry surprised everyone when he decided to attend Harvard including the coaches at Columbia, who after coaching a collection of other Cetrulos felt that he naturally belonged with the Lions. "To this day, the Columbia coaches hate me; they tell their fencers to hurt me if they can't beat me," Larry said.
The battle between Cetrulo and the Columbia coaches reached a new height this year in the Crimson-Lion match. After being taunted mercilessly by the Columbia coaches. Larry turned to the Lion bench and gave the coaches the finger.
Giving the finger to a coach is part of the Cetrulo approach to fencing. "The amount of hostility and aggression you can generate within the strip will determine how well you do." he said.
On the strip against an opponent. Larrys hostility does become strikingly apparent. Every one of his movements is part of a larger plan intended to intimidate his opponent. He doesn't just lunge. He charges; he doesn't just grunt, he screams. He can deliver a light ?? that ?? grazes the opponent's ?? he can be more vicious and leave a well that may rake a coup of days to heal.
In his competition last year, for instance. Larry was never attacked by any of his opponent because they were too busy protecting themselves from his attacks.
Larry seldom gets angry away from the strip, but when he does it usually involves ??. "The Harvard athletic department couldn't care less if we slipped off the face of the ?arta. Most of the coaches downstairs in the office of the INB rarely come up here to watch a match. And when they do, it is usually because one of their projectors has broken, and they don't know what t???e Larry said.
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