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CAMPUS REPORT | UC IRVINE

Standing Tall as Master of Midfield

September 15, 1998|CHRIS FOSTER

There is so much more to Tyler Theslof than his ability as a standout midfielder for the UC Irvine soccer team, but it's best, at times, for Coach George Kuntz to ignore the rest.

There is the motorcycle Theslof rides, the tattoos etched into his skin and his pit bull, Thor. He is a hockey goalie turned midfielder, who is so hip that he doesn't bleach his hair anymore and is known, respectfully, as Spartacus.

His unconventional lifestyle could be a little unnerving to some coaches. Kuntz, though, just rolls with it, and even participates some. It was Kuntz who tagged Theslof as Spartacus.

"He is a little bit of a personality," Kuntz said. "He showed up here with bleached hair, riding a motorcycle. But he has an educated left foot."

Theslof, a junior, schooled enough people with it last season. He started all 20 games and led the team with six assists. Not bad for a guy who recruited Irvine, including sending a photo of himself standing on a hill, hands on hips, wearing a soccer outfit.

"He looked like Spartacus," Kuntz said. "Before our first game, I blew it up into poster size and plastered a bunch of them all around the team room. It was just a way to loosen everyone up before the first game."

Theslof scored a goal and had an assist that day. There was no ditching the nickname.

"I was heckled my whole freshman year with that," Theslof said. "But I've never seen the movie."

No need. Theslof's life reads like a script:

* His brother, Nick, was a forward on UCLA's national championship team last season. He's a member of Major League Soccer's Columbus Crew, but is on the injured list.

* His parents met as professional ice skaters.

* His grandmother was a bronze medal-winning skater for Sweden in the 1936 Olympics. His grandfather skated with Sonja Henie.

In that family, being different takes some doing, but Theslof manages to pull it off.

Just start with the motorcycle.

"It's the best way to get around if you're a college student," Theslof said from his cell phone. "Some people drive cars, some ride motorcycles. It's part of my lifestyle. Like, right now, I'm playing with my pit bull on a tennis court."

It doesn't come as a surprise that Theslof was a hockey goalie.

"I've been hit on the head so many times by pucks, it's not even funny," he said. "One time, a puck clinked me in the head and went straight up in the air. I started backing up into the goal because I couldn't find it. I looked left and right, then it doinked me on the head. Fortunately, it landed on the back of the net."

Theslof is the family's bridge from ice to grass. He played soccer, but more as "something to keep me out of trouble." Hockey was another matter.

"We grew up in Minnesota and I started skating when I was 15 months old," said Theslof, whose family later moved to Columbus, Ohio. "It was my brother who was really into soccer."

Which led to Tyler changing his focus when he was 15. Nick Theslof went to Holland to play as an amateur for PSV, a professional club, and Tyler decided to pass up an opportunity to play hockey in Toronto for a Junior A team in favor of staying home with his parents.

"Ohio doesn't have the best hockey in the world and I started doing well in soccer," Theslof said.

Extremely well, in fact. He made the national pool--the top 25 players nationally in an age group--when he was 16. His brother returned and went to UCLA. When Tyler visited him, he decided he had to attend a beach school.

"I sent out my portfolio to UCLA, [UC] Santa Barbara and Irvine," Theslof said. "I took my visits and had a great time at Irvine. My attitude really meshed well with the coaches."

*

There are two renovation projects underway at Irvine.

One is the $3-million pool behind Crawford Hall. It is actually two pools divided by a bulkhead--a 65-meter swimming pool and a diving well and water-polo pool.

The other is more a reclamation project--the couch in cross-country/track Coach Vince O'Boyle's office, which is being reupholstered for the first time.

O'Boyle inherited it from former Irvine basketball coach Bill Mulligan, who occupied the office before O'Boyle. The couch, though, predates even Mulligan. Some in the athletic department claim the school was built around it.

Irvine officials are mum on the reupholstery cost.

*

Women's soccer Coach Marine Cano has an early-season assessment of his team: "We're not playing well right now," he said.

Not good news for future Anteater opponents. Irvine is 5-0 and has outscored opponents, 11-1.

*

It's no coincidence the Myron McNamara Memorial Scholarship golf tournament will be held at the Los Serranos Country Club on Nov. 9. Proceeds will go to establishing a scholarship named for the former Anteater tennis coach.

Jack Kramer, president of Los Serranos, and McNamara were close friends, starting in junior high school. The two were doubles partners until McNamara's career was cut short by injuries suffered in an automobile accident. After that, McNamara helped Kramer promote the professional tournament.

McNamara, who died in April, was Irvine's coach from 1966-79, leading the Anteaters to six NCAA Division II titles.

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