More Than 10 Questions with Fencer Mike El-Saleh

Mike El-Saleh is a senior on the Penn State fencing and cheerleading teams. Mike is currently preparing for the NCAA fencing championships. I was recently able to sit down with him for a 10 questions interview.

Onward State: When and why did you start fencing?

Mike El-Saleh: I started fencing when I was nine years old. My mother and uncle (who are from England) fenced in college. As a kid growing up, I used to see their swords at my grandparents’ house, and I was just a little kid so I loved swords. So I kept asking them about it, and my mom thought it would be better that I poked other people instead of bothering my sister, so they signed me up and I’ve been doing it ever since.

OS: What made you come to Penn State?

MES: The fencing team recruited me here, and that was a big draw because they are the best team in the country. My dad got his Ph.D. here in petroleum engineering, and that was a huge draw as well. I was raised Penn State proud–I mean we had a Joe Paterno cutout in our house and everything. I always said when I was three that I was gonna be the Penn State quarterback, and I still have a year of eligibility so we’ll see where that takes me.

OS: What’s left for you and the team this season?

MES: We have the regional championships next weekend (March 10), and after that we have the NCAA championships on the second to last weekend of March (March 22-25 in San Antonio). Our goal is to win it all. Penn State is the #1 fencing program in the country over the last 20 years, and my freshman and sophomore years we won it all, but junior year we came in second. That left a sour taste in our mouths, and we wanna wash it clean.

OS: What’s your proudest moment so far for you personally at Penn State?

MES: This time last year, I would have said that it was winning NCAA’s for the second time. It was an incredible moment and a real team win. It was a tough year but we still came through. But dancing in THON junior year topped that. It was one of the highlights of my whole life. Only those who danced know what feeling I’m talking about, it’s so incredible.

OS: Outside of fencing, what do you do in your spare time?

MES: I’m the SAAB (Student Athlete Advisory Board) president, so that takes up a lot of my time. Also I’m a member of the cheerleading team, so that takes up even more time. Those things eat me up. I like long walks on the beach, and every now and then I like to write plays. I’ve written a few and revised a few–that’s kind of my jam.

OS: Can you tell us about your teammate Guram (Geezy) Abashidze?

MES: We were lifting last week, and he had a seizure. After lots of tests at the hospital, they discovered a tumor in his head, and he opted to have surgery this last Monday. Over the weekend, we were at a tournament and decided to start the hashtag #LoveYouGeezy and it caught on, lots of people were tweeting about it. It was appropriate because Guram is a huge Twitter fan, he’s on it all the time. He had his surgery on Monday and it was very successful. I actually just spoke to him today, and he sounds great, making jokes like normal, and he should be out today. We’re all excited to have Geezy back home.

OS: Who’s your celebrity dream girl, and what pick up line would you use?

MES: Oh my gosh that’s the easiest question of the day! That’s Natalie Portman, hands down! Every Jewish guy in the world loves Natalie Portman. I always said as a kid, since im a huge Star Wars fan and she’s Queen Amidala, I felt that if I met her it would just happen. I know that she’s pregnant and has a fiancé, but I feel like there’s still a chance. I really don’t know what my pick up line would be, I feel like I might faint if I actually saw her.

OS: What are your post-Penn State plans?

MES: Get a job, find love, and start a family. That’s the goal. But I have a few interviews with a few companies. I really want to be in New York City, I feel like that’s my jam. It’s a big city, and it’s energetic, so hopefully somewhere around there I’ll find my niche. Currently I’m unemployed though, if anyone wants to email me my email is [email protected], please email me!

OS: What’s one weird thing about you that most people don’t know?

MES: My right arm is significantly larger than my left arm. Fencers have this thing where, since we hold our weapon with one hand, that side gets really big. My left calf is bigger, but my right thigh is a lot bigger too. It’s really drastic on some people, for me it’s pretty noticeable too.

OS: What’s one thing all Penn State students should do before they graduate?

MES: Try your hardest to dance in THON. That’s on the bucket list of all bucket lists because if you dance in THON, it means many things. It means you worked hard throughout the year to raise money FTK, means you were involved in other things outside of just THON weekend. Being a THON dancer is more than just standing for 46 hours, so if you can get involved and eventually dance in THON that’s definitely something to do before you graduate.

OS: If you were a dinosaur, what dinosaur would you be?

MES: I loved Jurassic Park, but I was really scared of the velociraptors, but I loved the T-Rex. I love it. I know the T-Rex is kind of the cop out answer, but I really love it. I especially love that video arcade game, where you have to sit in the car and play? I love the T-Rex part of it, where you have to try to get away from it, so I’m gonna say the T-Rex. That’s an easy question.

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About the Author

Alex Robinson

Alex Robinson was Onward State's Acting Managing Editor/Resident Old Man. He lived in Harrisburg almost his whole life, but he says he's from California -- where he was born -- because that's more fun. He loves cats and Chinese food, but only separately. He met both Ben Affleck and Kanye West within a half hour, so the three of them are basically best friends. If you want to hear his #scorching #hot #takes, you can follow him at @ARobinsonPSU or email him at [email protected].

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