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Chris Murphy, Published February 04 2013

Local fencer named US coach of Cadet, Junior teams at Pan American Championships

FARGO – When Enrique Alvarez was 14 years old, growing up in Oviedo, Spain, he didn’t want to fence. In fact, he argued with his mother about it.

Sixteen years later, as a certified master, the founder and coach of Fargo’s fencing club is headed to Puerto Rico after being selected as the United States head coach for the Cadet and Junior Pan American Championships that begin Wednesday.

Alvarez took a stab at fencing and never looked back.

“My mom really wanted me to fence, but I didn’t want to,” Alvarez said. “The next year, my friend joined, so I decided to do it. And I’ve been doing it ever since.”

Alvarez co-founded the Fargo-Moorhead Fencing Club in 2010 after noticing there was no place for people outside a college setting to fence. The club now has 45 fencers from ages 7 and up, including a high school team that has 15 members.

“My goal is to make a strong fencing committee in the Fargo-Moorhead area that can be self-sustaining,” he said.

Alvarez fenced competitively for six years but, although he’ll pick up a foil, sabre or épée every now and then, Alvarez switched his focus to teaching the sport he loves.

Alvarez became a certified fencing coach in 1999 by the Spanish Association of Fencing Masters. In 2006, Alvarez moved to Fargo and eventually graduated with a degree in electrical engineering from North Dakota State University.

In 2010, he was certified as Prevot d’Epee (entry level of a professional coach) by the United States Fencing Coaches Association (USFCA), which is a national academy of the Academie d’Aremes Internationale (the world organization of fencing masters).

In 2011, Alvarez achieved the title of Fencing Master, which is the highest level of accreditation by the USFCA and by the International Academy of Arms. The accreditation gives him the capability of teaching fencers from beginners to high-level champions.

Alvarez said he wasn’t expecting much when he applied for the Pan Am coaching opening – even with a resume that includes fencing, a master’s degree in electrical and computer engineering, a job as a computer systems engineer for visual and cognitive neuroscience at NDSU plus the ability to speak Spanish.

“I applied thinking I was a longshot,” Alvarez said.

It became a reality when Alvarez received a call two weeks ago that he would be reporting to Ponce, Puerto Rico, today to coach the cadets (under 17) and junior (under 20) teams.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Chris Murphy at (701) 241-5548