Penn-Trafford’s Schlessinger brings intensity to multiple sports

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Sunday, October 17, 2021 | 5:15 PM


Maybe it’s the football player in him. Or the dek hockey player, for that matter.

Penn-Trafford’s Nathan Schlessinger plays both sports — one for fun when he gets free time, the other on Friday nights as the Warriors’ placekicker — with unbridled force, effort and concentration.

But Schlessinger’s main game is soccer. Always has been, always will be.

That is where his aggressive edge seems to work best.

“He has a high soccer IQ and a love for the game,” Penn-Trafford soccer coach Sotiri Tsourekis said. “He is a stalwart. He has helped to teach our younger back-line guys and help them along. He’s really a striker, but we play him at center back.”

A soccer player since his baby teeth started falling out, Schlessinger has bounced around the lineup, from center back to forward.

“It’s nice to see the game come to me,” he said. “I will play where the team needs me.”

Schlessinger has been a staple for Penn-Trafford (9-6, 7-5) for four years. He has six goals an9e assists this season and is one of the top players in WPIAL Class 4A. He had five goals as a freshman, six as a sophomore and nine last season.

He made his way to football two years ago when assistant coach Boomer Prady mentioned to him the team needed a kicker.

After pondering the idea for roughly five minutes, he accepted the invitation.

“I hadn’t played football or kicked before,” Schlessinger said. “It wasn’t a difficult transition. My coaches made it work.”

Born with a heart condition, Schlessinger pushes forward as if nothing is abnormal. He has a bicuspid aortic valve, which means his valve has two flaps instead of three. This can make it difficult for the heart to pump blood into the aorta.

“I’m OK, I just have to be aware of it and see a cardiologist for the rest of my life,” he said.

“It was kind of a shocker going into my junior year, the summer before covid. I had a regular check-up, and they heard a murmur. I needed to get checked out.”

The condition surely hasn’t slowed him down. He often looks like the best player on the field.

“He’s ready for the next level,” Tsourekis said.

Schlessinger, who has committed to play soccer at Franklin & Marshall, a Division III program in Lancaster, has led the Warriors to the WPIAL playoffs.

He hopes to do the same in football, where he has connected on five field goals, including a pair — from 42 and 36 yards — in a recent 15-10 win over Gateway. He also is a touchback-producing leg on kickoffs.

The 42-yard kick was a stadium record for a Penn-Trafford kicker.

This past Friday, he one-upped himself with a 48-yard field goal at Connellsville to break Matt Loughnane’s program record of 44 yards set in 2012.

“It was awesome,” he said of football coach John Ruane singling him out in a postgame huddle at Warrior Stadium.

“I just took a deep breath on both (field goals). I just thought, ‘This is what I do. This is what I am here for.’ ”

Ruane said he would be comfortable having Schlessinger attempt field goals from 55 yards and in.

Schlessinger said Tsourekis and Ruane are similar coaches. Both give the teams a welcoming, family-type atmosphere.

“They both demand excellence,” he said. “They know what they want from us for us to be successful.”

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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