The clanking of weights in Marian Central’s Don Penza Strength Center seems odd because of the hour.
Who works out at 10 p.m. on a Friday? Who has that kind of energy or desire after pushing, pulling, banging heads and sweating for the previous 21/2 hours?
Hurricanes defensive end Thomas Lesniewski does.
Marian junior linebacker Michael Hartlieb chuckles.
“He’s nuts in the weight room,” Hartlieb said, admirably. “That kid’s the Energizer Bunny. He’s got too much energy.”
Lesniewski is driven to be the best in every way. The 6-foot-1, 220-pound senior leads the Hurricanes (7-2) in tackles (72) and sacks (nine) as they open the IHSA Class 5A playoffs at 7 p.m. Friday at Bremen (8-1) in Midlothian. Marian is seeded No. 9; the Braves are a No. 8 seed.
“I’m just trying to be the best I can be,” Lesniewski said. “I see commercials about when you’re not at the gym, there’s other kids who might be in the gym getting better than you. I had that mindset to not let anyone take my spot and be the best I can be.”
Lesniewski made an impact with Marian’s defense on its 11-1 team last season.
He opened this season with three sacks in the Hurricanes’ 28-2 victory at Crystal Lake South. Lesniewski’s speed and strength make him difficult to control.
Hurricanes coach Ed Brucker said when they run sprints, Lesniewski often is the first player, of any position, to finish.
“He was still kind of feeling his way around as a sophomore,” Brucker said. “He came up in the playoffs and we put him at end and had him rush. We had [Scott] Taylor and [Kurtis] Stirneman [both now NCAA Division I linemen]. They had a hard time blocking him [in practice], and we figured we had something there.”
Lesniewski was already a workout warrior before high school, but he did not play football. HIs father, Jreneusz, was a bodybuilder when he was younger. So, as Lesniewski puts it, “working out was in my genes.”
Brucker laughs while recalling a conversation with Jreneusz, who, with his thick Polish accent said, “He get me up at 12 o’clock, we go out in parking lot and push car.”
Jreneusz wanted Thomas to play a sport, so football it was. With his physical attributes, Lesniewski has been a natural.
“It’s very hard [blocking him],” said junior tackle Karl Rude, who often draws that assignment in practice. “You never know what he’s going to do, push or pull. Or if he’s going to bull-rush you. Or if he’s just going to full-out speed-rush you. It’s been a lot easier to block [opponents] since I’ve gone against him.”
Lesniewski wants to play college football. If he were taller, he would draw more D-I interest. Brucker just wants to find him a good fit after high school.
On Friday, Bremen will have to deal with trying to slow down a player who has proved to be a real problem for opponents. If he has enough left to lift weights after games, imagine what Lesniewski might be like in the fourth quarter.
“I am tired, but in my mind it’s all mental,” he said. “My mind’s never tired, so I keep pushing myself.”