Meet Swordplay LA’s Fencing Coaches
Mary Spohn (Co-owner/Competition FENCING COACH, all weapons)
Mary began her fencing career at Swordplay LA in 1998. At the age of 5, she took her first, foil lesson with Tim Weske. It was during those early lessons where Mary found her passion for fencing.
Fast forward, over the next four years Mary proceeded to accelerate in the competitive program. By the age of 9, Mary was competing in both regional and national competitions. At age 10, Mary was ranked number 5 nationally in her age group and awarded several national medals. Over the course of the next 8 years Mary was consistently ranked as one of the top women foil fencers in the country. Previous coaches included Al Carter and Olympic Coach Greg Massialas.
Her years of hard work and notable accomplishments earned her a scholarship at Northwestern University. Known as one of the top Division 1 fencing programs in the country, Mary embraced Northwestern Collegiate Athletics and celebrated a Midwest Conference Championship with her team in her first year. She was Captain of the Foil squad during her junior year, was voted overall Team Captain during her senior year, and graduated All American.
Mary is now co-owner of Swordplay LA and continues to inspire fencers who are looking to excel in the sport.
Ryan Cook (co-Owner/competition FENCING COACH, foil)
Ryan began his fencing career at Swordplay LA, taking his first foil lesson at the age of 15 from TJ Cencula (a former coach at the facility). He continued training with TJ until he began fencing competitively, at which point he started training with Victor Cervantes, Sam Signorelli, and Brad Wilcox.
Ryan competed locally during high school and college, earning medals at local USFA-sponsored tournaments. He also began coaching at Swordplay LA as soon as he graduated from high school. Many of his students grew into confident young adults and adept fencers, going on to win medals at in-house and local USFA tournaments.
Although he took a brief break from coaching during college, he returned to Swordplay LA after graduating Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy. Now he leverages the critical thinking and communication skills he obtained during college to help students take their game to the next level and approach the sport with a critical eye.
When Ryan isn’t at Swordplay LA, he’s reading philosophy, enjoying a fantasy novel, playing video games, or spending time with his fiance.
Sam signorelli (armorer/vendor/sabre and foil FENCING COACH)
Sam Signorelli began fencing at San Diego State in 1981, and has been with Swordplay LA since 1996. He has competed and directed at all domestic event levels in all three weapons, and has been an event armorer at all domestic levels, as well as some international ones (in pentathlon).
He is the armorer, treasurer, and webmaster for the Southern California Scholastic Fencing League, as well as being the official armorer of the San Bernardino Division of the US Fencing Association.
He primarily teaches sabre at Swordplay LA, but also teaches foil. He is also Swordplay LA’s club armorer and in-house fencing equipment vendor.
Ben Campbell (sabre FENCING COACH)
Ben has been teaching as Swordplay LA since 2012. He enjoys sharing his love of fencing with his students to make the sport engaging to people of all ages.
Ben has been fencing for more than half of his life. He trained with the team at Halberstadt Fencing in San Francisco and competed in the national and junior Olympic circuit for eight years. He was Pacific Coast Champion in 2006, and has placed in the top 32 nationally.
Tyler Wohlner (foil FENCING COACH)
Tyler has been part of the Swordplay LA family since 2009. His weapon of expertise is foil and he strives to be a tool that students can use to achieve their maximum potential in both mind and body.
In his early years, his parents struggled to find a sport that he could stick with. After trying football, baseball, and basketball, they finally landed on fencing at Swordplay LA. Fencing stuck with him because it offered a unique element of individual responsibility that other mainstream sports lacked. That allowed him to focus and excel at his own rate, which is why he still fences almost a decade later.
Outside of Swordplay LA, he dedicates most of his time to music. He plays guitar, bass, drums, keyboard, and vocals. He even composes and produces for multiple projects. He also conducts psychological research at Channel Islands University in Camarillo.
Laelia nguyen (Foil FENCING COACH)
Laelia discovered fencing in college and promptly joined the UCI Fencing Club. She eventually became the club secretary and then was club president for two years. She was also part of the first women's foil team in UCI history to win the gold at the intercollegiate conference. Besides teaching at Swordplay LA, she is the head fencing coach at Polytechnic School, where she works with high school students.
Growing up, Laelia was a dancer, performing jazz, ballet, and hip-hop routines at local events, recitals, and even at competitions. She now leverages her dance experience to bring a focus on form, grace, and confidence to her fencing students, as well as elements of flexibility and conditioning to their training.
In addition to dance, Laelia adores all forms of art. Her hobbies include drawing, digital and traditional painting, sewing, designing clothing and costumes, cooking, baking, acting, interior design, and playing music.
Jessie Cook (sabre FENCING COACH)
Jessie Cook is Swordplay LA’s newest and youngest sabre coach. She has been training at Swordplay LA since 2008, and although she specializes in sabre she’s also familiar with foil. She continues to participate in Sam Signorelli’s sabre classes, where she helps her fellow students fence better with insightful tips and advice -- she also keeps them laughing with her colorful personality.
She was convinced to fence at the age of 10 after watching her brother fence in his first tournament (the experience left her awed and wide-eyed) and has called Swordplay LA her second home ever since.