Starting as a young boy at summer camp interested in learning to sword fight and competing now as a Division I fencer with 75 bout wins in just two seasons, senior foilist Emerson Blutt has come a long way.
“I liked it because it was basically like sword fighting,” Blutt said. “So that was appealing to me as a young boy.”
From that first experience at summer camp, Blutt grew quickly in the sport and gained an appreciation for its intellectual nature.
“You think very hard while you’re competing, and I felt that was really stimulating for me,” he said.
Even before coming to Penn, Blutt had competed at the national and international levels. He earned an individual bronze medal and a team silver while competing at the 2017 Maccabiah Games with the U.S. junior men’s foil team. In high school, he helped lead the Collegiate School to an Independent Schools Fencing League championship in 2018.
When it came to picking a school, Blutt wanted to find a program that would support his academic and career goals in addition to athletics. His father's alma mater, Penn, stood out as an obvious choice.
“I knew previous fencers at Penn, and I knew that [Penn] did a really good job of not only helping you further your fencing career as much as you can, but also simultaneously helping you further your professional career,” Blutt said.
Another factor in his decision was the team's head coach, Andy Ma.
“[Ma] is one of the nicest, sweetest fencing coaches I’ve ever met in my entire life,” Blutt said. “When I met with him before college, that was a really big part of my decision.”
However, Penn has only a few recruitment spots available every year, and Blutt was not offered one. Despite receiving other offers from different schools, Blutt stuck with Penn, applied, and eventually got in.
When he arrived at Penn, he wasn’t entirely sure how large an impact he would have or even if he would stick to fencing.
That question was put to rest early, as he went on to compete in all 39 men's foil team bouts his freshman season — the only fencer on the team to do so — and win 52 matches. In doing so, Blutt became the first Penn freshman since 2017-18 to win 50+ matches in a single season.
“I ended up having a much larger role than I expected to on the team,” he said.
Blutt attributes his success to Penn's strong fencing community and his coach's commitment to both athletic and academic excellence.
“We always think very efficiently and very intently about the way we practice,” Ma said. “I know they have very intensive academic commitments.”
“[Blutt] adapted very quickly both academically and athletically,” he added.
Even as a freshman, Blutt's impact on the team was readily apparent. In a bout against Duke during the Penn State Invitational, Blutt found himself in the deciding match against a member of the Irish national team. He was down early in the match, but was able to battle back, securing the win for the Quakers.
“It was one of my most proud moments in fencing,” Blutt said. “That was one of the factors that made me continue with fencing and have a renewed passion throughout college.”
Blutt had high hopes coming into his final season at Penn, but for now, his senior campaign has been put on hold due to injury.
“Hopefully he will be back in one or two weeks and continue to train back in shape,” Ma said. “Hopefully he will be ready for the Ivy Regional.”
Blutt added that at first it was scary to think about potentially missing out on much of his senior season and not being able to have the impact that he had in past seasons. However, he said he has found other ways to help the team.
“I feel like there’s a lot I can do in terms of cheering them on and coaching them from the sidelines, and creating an atmosphere that they feel supported in to help them fence as best as possible,” Blutt said.
As he continues to recover and get closer to full health, he is looking forward to getting back out there with the team and finishing off his Penn career on a high note.
“My individual hopes right now specifically are to get healthy and be able to fence as much as I can for what theoretically is my last season, and to do as best as I can in the opportunities that I have,” Blutt said.
With the track record he already has, it would be hard to argue that those goals are out of reach.