HARRISON, N.Y. – Don’t get into a debate with Harrison High School’s Danny DeBois because you will more than likely lose.
DeBois just finished his record-breaking high school debate career by winning the Tournament of Champions in April and the National Catholic Forensic League’s Grand National tournament in Chicago on the weekend of May 24-25.
He is the first to win both tournaments back-to-back in 25 years.
“He has been without question the most successful debater in the country this year and he is ranked as the No. 1 debater in the country on every system that does a ranking of any kind,” said Chetan Hertzig, social studies teacher and founder of the debate team at Harrison High School. “He has been really just incredible in terms of his competitive success.”
Since joining the team as a freshman, DeBois has won nearly 40 tournaments, including two state championships and seven or eight national titles. Of the 20 titles the Harrison debate team has won this year, DeBois won 10.
“Danny is really the only debater I’ve ever seen who can successfully do any style of debate,” Hertzig said. “In addition to that, he is really committed to learning all the material on a topic.”
The Harrison team started out in 2009 with fewer than 10 students. There are 21 continuing into next year with another 15-to-20 expected to join, Hertzig, its founder, said.
“Students treat it like its sports and they give it the amount of attention that our sports programs give sports teams,” he said.
The National Catholic Forensic League’s championship featured 217 students from more than 35 states, who debated five preliminary rounds on Saturday, May 24. On Sunday, May 25, the top 32 competitors debated another five rounds to the championship. DeBois went undefeated both days.
Harrison junior Amy Geller also qualified for the Nationals and fell one ballot short of qualifying for Sunday’s competition.
The NCFL and Tournament of Champions used to be similar debate formats, but today are polar opposites. Hertzig said the fact that DeBois won both shows his skill set transcends differences in judges.
“For a debater to win both the TOC and NCFL nationals is, in this day and age in 2014, absolutely just incredible,” he said.