There's no question Nikiski senior Seth Tauriainen treats his 5-foot-9, 210-pound body rough. The big mystery is how he gets away with it.
Tauriainen's athletic calender starts in the fall, when he plays on both the offensive and defensive lines for the Bulldogs.
From there, it's on to hockey in the winter, where Tauriainen is such a valued hard-hitting defenseman that his coach will sometimes keep him on the ice the whole game.
In the spring, Tauriainen takes his bumps and bruises to soccer, a game that at times can be just as physical as hockey or football, but also a game where the only protection is shin guards.
So how does he manage to proof his body from a year of chop blocks, slide tackles and hard checks against the boards?
"I love taking saunas," Tauriainen said. "It's a great way to relax."
Of course, a sauna for Tauriainen means more than just sitting in a hot, steamy room. The experience isn't complete until he's jumped out of the sauna and dunked himself in icy lake water or rolled around in the snow.
It's been something he's been doing with his father, Carl Tauriainen, since he was a 1-year-old and his dad used to dunk him in and out of the water.
On the field
Plays offensive and defensive line for Nikiski's football team.
Was an all-Great Land Conference performer at interior defensive line for the Bulldogs last season.
Plays defenseman for Nikiski's hockey team and seldom steps off the ice.
Plays fullback for Nikiski's soccer team.
In the classroom
Has a 4.0 grade point average.
Is vice president of the student body and the reigning homecoming king.
"The sauna was one of the first things that was built when my father homesteaded out here," said Carl, who is Finnish. "It was built in 1960 and it's gotten a lot of use over the years."
Seth gets his love of the sauna from more than his father's side of the family. The father of Seth's mother, Ruth Tauriainen, used to sauna with Carl's father.
"It's good for the circulation and it makes you sleep a lot better," Carl said. "It really takes the sting out of those bumps and bruises."
Ironically, while Seth's favorite place to be is in the sauna's heat, one of the other places he cherishes most is hockey's ice.
Tauriainen has loved the game of hockey since he was little, but since the Soldotna Sports Center is a 70-mile round trip from his house, his parents never got him involved in the Kenai Peninsula Hockey Association.
But when Tauriainen was in sixth grade, Bob Bird brought a hockey program out to Nikiski and Tauriainen eagerly joined.
"I thought I was a good skater when I went to play that first year," Tauriainen said. "When I actually started playing hockey, though, I found out there were a lot of things I couldn't do."
However, Tauriainen worked on those things to the extent that Bird keeps him on the ice as much as possible on defense.
"He's the iron horse out there," Bird said. "It's pretty hard to play the entire game in hockey but as a defenseman he's learned to pace himself.
"What's really amazing is he spends the whole season on the ice playing defense and he hardly picks up any penalties."
Tauriainen doesn't even think of playing a whole game as bothersome. Anybody who's stopped by the Jason Peterson Memorial Ice Rink on a late winter night knows why.
"I love playing hockey so much, it's doesn't matter if I'm tired," Tauriainen said. "I love the rink out here. You can go over there at one o'clock in the morning, turn on the lights and play."
Like hockey, soccer is a game Tauriainen has played at an organized level since the sixth grade. Football, however, is an entirely different matter.
"At first when I got to high school, I wasn't going to play football," Tauriainen said. "Halfway through my first year, (then-assistant coach Steve) Gillaspie convinced me to."
Starting his junior year, Tauriainen was an invaluable contributor to the Bulldogs on the offensive and defensive lines. Last year, he was an all-Great Land Conference interior defensive lineman.
This year, he has the big responsibility of getting the defensive signals each play from defensive coordinator Lee Moore.
"I think coach Moore speaks a different language with all of his hand signals," Nikiski head coach Scott Anderson said.
On a more serious note, Anderson said what makes Tauriainen invaluable is his complete understanding of the defensive system and his willingness to play anywhere.
"I could put him in at safety and he would know what he's supposed to be doing," Anderson said.
Tauriainen is more than just a student of defensive formations and blitzing. He carries a 4.0 grade point average in the classroom and is looking to follow in the footsteps of Amy and Peter Dolan, his brother and sister, who were both valedictorians at Nikiski.
"Kids will do what they know you expect of them," Carl said. "They always knew we expected them to do well at school."
Tauriainen also is the vice president of the student body and reigning homecoming king at Nikiski.
"He's one of those kids that other kids feel comfortable talking to," Anderson said. "He's a leader on the field and in the classroom.
"I don't think you'll find anybody in school who doesn't like him."
Of course, Tauriainen doesn't go around thumping his chest about such things.
"He's very humble," Bird said. "He'll put a good check on somebody, but he won't get in their face about it.
"He has a lot of things he could go around bragging about, but he doesn't."
Tauriainen said he will go to college next year, but he hasn't decided where he will go or what he will study. He also doesn't know if he'll continue playing sports.
"I'm not going to a school just to play sports, but if two schools are equal and one has a team I can make, I'd definitely go there," he said.
Oh yeah, and having a sauna on campus wouldn't hurt that school's chances, either.
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