CRANBERRY TWP — Soccer wasn't cutting it for Harry Hardman.
His mother wanted him to find a sport that would.
“My mom saw there was a fencing club near our house,” Hardman said. “I gave it a try and fell in love with the sport.”
That was six years ago, when Hardman — a Cranberry Township resident — was in seventh grade.
Now he is a graduated senior from Aquinas Academy, where he carried a 4.02 grade point average and produced an 82-13 career individual fencing record over his high school career.
Hardman made the USA Fencing All-Academic team and is headed to Cleveland State University, where he will major in finance and join the Vikings' men's foil team.
There are three styles of fencing — foil, saber and epee. Foil limits the target to the opponent's upper torso, excluding the arms and head, and points can only be scored through a stabbing motion.
“Only one person can score a touch at a time,” Hardman said. “That's up to the official as to who scores the point each time.”
Saber also limits the target to the upper torso, but arms are included and points can be scored through a slashing or stabbing motion. Epee involves the entire body as a target and is the only style in which both competitors can score at the same time.
“The fact that it's a combination of physical and mental ability is what I like about fencing,” Hardman said. “You have to be in good shape, of course, but you also need a strong mind and strong will to overcome your opponent.
“All of those things have helped me in other phases of my life.”
Hardman will be the first Aquinas Academy fencer to compete at the NCAA Division I level. He has also qualified for the US Fencing Association national championships and will be competing in the USFA Division II Men's Foil event at the Summer Nationals in Columbus, Ohio, this month.
Cleveland State is one of approximately 25 universities across the country that offer fencing at the NCAA level.
“I was also offered an opportunity to compete in fencing at Boston College and Brandeis (Mass.), but Cleveland State is the best fit for me academically,” Hardman said.
John Carroll has been the head fencing coach at Aquinas Academy the past two years.
“Harry has been successful because he is athletic and his mental attitude enables him to succeed in tough situations,” Carroll said. “He has the ability to rally from behind to defeat opponents. He's done it on many occasions.
“He is very self-confident and he's been a leader in this program.”
When Hardman first joined the Aquinas Academy fencing team, the roster consisted of two boys and three girls.
The team had 12 competitors this season.
“Harry is the tip of that spear, the leader of the group,” Carroll said. “He's helped improve the mental approach of the entire team.”
Carroll added that he believes Hardman will be successful on the national circuit.
Hardman is planning on it.
“There are a lot of talented recruits coming in (to Cleveland State), but I hope to be competing at meets as a freshman,” he said. “My long-term goal is to qualify for NCAA nationals.”