PURDYS, N.Y. -- Tyler Marcos' love of fencing began in an unlikely way, but today the Purdys teenager is one of the top fencers in the nation.
When he was 10 years old, Marcos saw a picture of a fencer on a diner place mat and decided he wanted to try the sport.
"I told my mother I wanted to be a fencer and she looked at me like I had three heads," recalled the 15-year-old. "She didn't know anything about fencing or where I could even go to learn about it."
Tyler's mother and father eventually found a place for their son to learn about fencing, and he's been schooling his opponents ever since. Tyler recently competed in the USA National Fencing Championships in Columbus, Ohio, finishing in sixth place out of a field of 228 competitors.
"I was so caught up in competing that I didn't even think about where I was going to finish," said Marcos, who attends the Wooster School in Danbury, Conn. "Each round gets harder and harder and harder and you kind of get lost in the moment. Every good fencer is at nationals so there is added pressure. After I was done, I just sat down and said, 'Wow, I got sixth, and I'm really happy.'"
Marcos finished the 2012-13 season ranked ninth in the United States in his age group. He competed in eight national events and two local ones, with all his hard work paying off.
"I train four to five times a week, two to four hours a day," he said. "I also work with a trainer outside of fencing two days a week."
Marcos is coached by Slava Grigoriev, a two-time Olympian from Kazakhstan, who has pushed him to new heights.
"Slava means a lot to me. He's very tough," said Marcos. "He's taught me a lot that has brought me to this level. Slava has given me the best tools and knowledge to work with."
Grigoriev may have given Marcos a few ingredients to be a nationally ranked fencer, but the teen has been blessed with the maturity that belies his age.
"You have to be willing to learn from my mistakes," he said. "I've learned the most by losing to really good people. If you're not willing to learn from your losses, you're never going to improve."
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