Nathan Schlesinger, foil wielder for the Lawrence University (Vikings) Fencing team, is finishing his first season with the team. Most recently, Schlesinger combined forces with fellow freshman Ben Carlick and compiled two wins en route to topping Northwestern for the third place finish in the Midwest Fencing Conference Championships. His performance helped the Vikings finish fourth overall in the combined standings, and second in the men’s team standings. The final meet for the team takes place on Mar. 8, at the NCAA Midwest Regional meet.
Where are you from, and what drew you to Lawrence?
I moved to Austin, Tx., this last summer, but I lived in Florida before that. This school seemed like a good fit for me, and that this fencing team would be a good opportunity for me to be on in college.
How do you keep yourself focused before you have a bout? Do you have any kind of superstitions or rituals?
I don’t really have any pump-up playlist or anything. I do meditate right before I begin fencing, though, for at least a few minutes. I try to do it for at least a few seconds before I fence at any point. I always try to warm up and clear my head before I start fencing, too.
Is there anything you do in your spare time that you think helps with your performance?
Well, I used to play chess. I stopped competing in that before I started fencing. Some people call fencing “physical chess,” because really what you’re doing with your body is making a series of moves and your opponent has to react to them.
What’s one thing you’ve enjoyed so far this year as a Lawrence student?
I really enjoy the community here, and the small campus. All of my friends are within walking distance, and I always bump into people that I know everywhere I go.
In your mind, what has been the easiest and the toughest parts of being on a collegiate team?
The toughest part is balancing focus of fencing for myself and for the team. Fencing is an individual sport, but you still have a responsibility to your teammates. If there’s too much concern leaning toward one or the other, they both might suffer. The easiest part, I think, is that we have practice five days a week, because I really enjoy fencing. Practicing for two hours a day, five days a week, it makes me feel productive and keeps me in shape. It definitely helps my performance in competitions, because I know that I’ve put the work in during practices, and I feel more fulfilled.
How different does the atmosphere of Lawrence feel from where you’ve been previously?
I went to a really rigorous high school. I was in a full-time “gifted” program. Everybody was really focused on grades and got really upset if they got anything below a solid “A.” It’s good to be here and see that the perception of what is important is broader than what I was familiar with in high school. People here understand that achievement outside of the classroom is just as, if not more, important than achievement in the classroom. Also, seeing people pursue their interests outside of class and seeking opportunities to improve themselves is great.
How have your teammates helped you with your transition into the life of a collegiate student-athlete?
We have a great program on the fencing team—a varsity buddy program. We spend a certain amount of time together every week. I get along really well with my varsity buddy, we have a lot of common interests. Everybody really wants the freshmen to feel like they’re a part of the team, and to get better.
Fencing here at Lawrence rarely seems to garner much attention. What do you think the reason for that is?
Part of it is that we don’t have any home games. We can’t have people coming to watch, taking pictures, tell their friends, it’s not like the other sports here at Lawrence. Also, the sport is kind of complex, so I think it might be hard for some people to know exactly what’s going on if they did come. I think if there were more competition, though, we could get some interest going on campus.
Going off of the last question; what is the workout routine of the fencing team like?
We have five practices a week, like I said. We also have weightlifting on Tuesday mornings at 7 a.m. Our program is designed by the weightlifting coach over at Alex Gym. We spend an hour doing footwork and warmup exercises, 15 minutes doing fencing drills and an hour of bouting.
Where do you see this team going during your time here at Lawrence?
I’m excited for the future of the team. We’ve got some good momentum going. The foil and sabre squads lack a full-time coach, unfortunately, but hopefully that will change next year, and if not next year, then the following year. If we can get some freshmen or some walk-ons, we could really improve on the results we had this year. We’ve got some strong young members on the team, who have fenced for many years before college, and when your teammates are strong, it pushes you to be stronger yourself.