By Brad Fauber
FRONT ROYAL -- Benjamin, Nicholas and Aidan Wenzel are always fencing together.
The trio has been a frequent sight in fencing tournaments all along the East Coast and beyond, to the point where they have come to be known simply as the "Wenzel Clan" to those familiar with the brothers from the Front Royal area.
The brothers have competed together in events of all sizes, from small regional competitions to larger national tournaments. But they have never competed together -- at least not all three at once -- on one of the country's largest fencing stages, the Junior Olympic Fencing Championships.
Twins Benjamin and Nicholas shared the experience of the Junior Olympics once back in 2011, and they are eager for their second opportunity to compete in the event this weekend in Baltimore. And this time, their younger brother Aidan will be joining them.
"This time it's kind of like we all get to go," 17-year-old Benjamin Wenzel said. "We have a bit of a reputation around here locally for being the 'Wenzel Clan,' so it's good that we get that full representation out there on the national Junior Olympics level."
This year marks the third year in a row that at least two of the Wenzel brothers have qualified for the Junior Olympics.
Benjamin and Nicholas were in attendance when the event was held in Dallas two years ago, and Benjamin and Aidan qualified for, but did not attend, the Junior Olympics last year in Salt Lake City.
The twins said they used their trip to Dallas in 2011 as a learning experience to see what it's like to compete on the largest stage available to young fencers. Nicholas Wenzel said they are entering the event this year with some different goals in mind.
"We're probably going to try to take it more seriously this time. I think I would like to do better because I only came in like 120th out of 180-some people," Nicholas Wenzel said. "Ben did better than I did in that one. I would like to get a higher rating, too. But that's going to be a little harder because only the top 16 in this tournament get a higher rating."
Benjamin Wenzel, who finished in the top 64 competitors in his first trip to the Junior Olympics, said he hopes to crack the top 32 this time around.
Aidan is taking a slightly different approach to the event, which begins Friday and lasts through Monday. The 16-year-old said he plans to use the Junior Olympics as a learning experience, much like his brothers did two years ago.
"I don't really have any goals going in, maybe get to the round of 32 or 64 or something," Aidan Wenzel said. "Really it's kind of what [Benjamin and Nicholas] went to do the first time, just experience it and do as well as I can."
The three brothers qualified for this year's Junior Olympics Fencing Championships via their performances in Virginia's qualifying tournament held in Manassas in mid-December.
Aidan Wenzel will compete in the Cadet (U17) men's foil division this weekend after placing third in that category at the state qualifying tournament, and Nicholas finished second in the Junior (U20) men's foil group in the qualifying event.
Benjamin Wenzel actually qualified to compete in the Junior Olympics in two different weapons, the only competitor in the state to do so. Benjamin said his primary weapon is foil, but he decided to try epee as well after finishing third in the junior foil competition at qualifying. To his surprise, Benjamin finished first in the junior epee event.
Benjamin said the fact that the Junior Olympics is being held closer to home this year has provided him with some extra motivation to perform well.
"It's a little bit more like defending my home territory," Benjamin Wenzel said. "It's definitely a big experience for me because being able to qualify out of everyone in the state of Virginia and compete against the best from every other division in the nation is something that I think is one of my fencing goals today. Hopefully this time around I'll be able to do a little bit better and represent Virginia well."
The boys' father, Dr. Frederick Wenzel, hopes the Junior Olympics will serve as the pinnacle of his sons' senior year of high school.
"The thing that I think is nice is that they've all three qualified and that's something that is very special in our state and even nationally, because you just don't see it that much," Frederick Wenzel said. "It's nice they can all enjoy the fruits of their labors instead of one feeling left out.
"I hope they'll see this as kind of the culmination of their high school athletics."
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or email@example.com