Meet Swordplay LA’s Fencing Coaches
Mary Spohn (Co-owner/Competition instructor)
Mary began her fencing career at Swordplay 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 in her first year celebrated a Midwest Conference Championship with her team. Junior year she was Captain of the Foil squad and then senior year, voted overall Team Captain 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 instructor)
Ryan is one of the Co-Owners and Foil Competition Instructors at Swordplay LA. He began his fencing career at this very club, 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 regionally 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 regional USFA tournaments.
Although he took a brief break from coaching during college, he returned 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 articles or books, playing video games, or spending time with his fiancé.
Sam signorelli (armorer/vendor/instructor)
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 weapon, and has been event armorer at all domestic event 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 teaches primarily sabre, but also teaches foil.
In addition, he is Swordplay LA’s club armorer and in-house fencing equipment vendor.
Ben Campbell (instructor)
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. In 2006 he was Pacific Coast Champion and has placed in the top 32 nationally.
Ben has been teaching as Swordplay since 2012 and enjoys sharing his love of fencing with his students to make the sport engaging to people of all ages.
Tyler Wohlner (instructor)
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 searched to find a sport that he could stick with. After trying football, baseball, and basketball, they finally landed on fencing. Fencing stuck with him because it offered a unique individual responsibility that other mainstream sports lacked. That element 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/produces for multiple projects. He also conducts psychological research at Channel Islands University in Camarillo.
ryan del grosso (instructor)
Ryan Delgrosso started fencing in 1992 -- when Swordplay LA first opened -- and has trained with Tim Weske ever since. His passion for and perspective on the game has proven to be infectious to students and peers alike over the years. Ryan has also developed, expanded, and curated an active environment during open fencing nights that other adult fencers enjoy regularly.
Jessie Cook (instructor)
Jessie Cook is Swordplay LA’s newest and youngest sabre coach (she’s also Ryan’s sister). 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 the club her second home ever since.