Brad Pressel and his wife, Stacy, both realized that their twin sons, Zach and Tayler, had decent athletic talent at a very early age.
"We could tell that they were good athletes,'' Brad said of the twins, who were born eight minutes apart at Pittsburgh's Allegheny General Hospital on Aug. 5, 1994. "They were playing catch with me out in our yard at a really young age, 7 or 8 years old, and I could throw the baseball or football to them like I was throwing it to an adult. They just had the knack.''
The Pressel twins kept that athletic knack and honed it to a fine point during their days growing up in the Northern Bedford Area School District. When they graduate from Northern Bedford High School this spring, they'll do so leaving a remarkable athletic legacy, as well as a sizeable void for the school's football, basketball and track programs.
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Tayler Pressel (left)?and Zach Pressel are three-year starters for the Northern Bedford boys basketball team.
Both 6-foot-3 standouts are currently in their third seasons as starters with the boys varsity basketball program - Tayler as a center averaging over 13 points and nine rebounds per game, and Zach as a guard averaging 10 points per game.
Both were two-year, two-way varsity starters in the football program - Tayler as a tight end and middle linebacker, and Zach as a wideout and defensive end.
In track, both are state-caliber jumpers, with Zach having won two District 5 championships and a pair of PIAA Class AA state medals for placing fifth and fourth, respectively, the last two springs in the high jump, and Tayler qualifying for states last season in the triple jump.
"They've both gotten a lot of stuff done in sports over the last three or four years,'' said Jeff Batzel, who is the head coach of both Northern Bedford's football and track teams. "They've left a legacy here at Northern Bedford as really outstanding all-around athletes, and they're going to be missed next year.''
Batzel said that the Pressel twins possess a competitive desire that is nearly commensurate with their athletic ability.
"They're both tall, and they both jump extremely well,'' Batzel said. "They're both very competitive and fiery on the field, track or court, but they're also both very coachable and polite. Away from the field, you won't meet any nicer kids than them.''
Zach and Tayler both said they share a strong personal bond as brothers. At the same time, their competitive fire sometimes bursts through against one another.
"During football tackling drills, when we were up against each other in practices, we tried to out-do each other,'' Zach said. "But we don't let it get into our heads. We're always supporting each other. It's always been nice having [Tayler] around. Challenging each other has helped us to become better in sports.''
Zach - a 180-pounder who plans to attend the Pennsylvania School of Technology in Williamsport to pursue an eventual career as a surveyor - likes every sport in which he participates equally.
"Whatever is in season is my favorite,'' he said.
Tayler, a two-time honorable mention all-state selection in football, likes that sport best. He plans to play football on the college level at Shippensburg University, where he will major in criminal justice.
"I like hitting people,'' said Tayler, a 190-pounder. "I like playing linebacker as well as I like playing tight end. I'd rather play defense, but Shippensburg has told me that I'd be playing wideout/tight end there.''
Both Brad and Stacy Pressel were three-sport participants during their scholastic days at Northern Bedford. Brad played football, basketball and baseball, while Stacy - whose maiden name is Decker - participated in basketball, softball and volleyball.
"I think my parents have had a lot to do with our [his and Tayler's] athletic success,'' Zach said. "They've both supported us very well in our athletic careers, and they were both pretty athletic themselves.''
Brad Pressel said that sports have been a labor of love for his twin sons.
"They both love sports, and they both love the same sports,'' he said. "They're both wonderful kids, and they both work hard at what they do.''
Northern Bedford boys basketball coach Barry Crawford will second that notion.
"They're both pretty competitive boys who both have a strong work ethic,'' Crawford said of Zach, who is a lefthanded shooter, and Tayler, who is a righthanded shooter. "They both go after it pretty hard in practices as well as in the games. At the same time, they encourage each other a lot, and they feed off each other. They're extremely coachable, and they get along well with the other kids on the team.''
That special mix of fire and friendliness seems to serve the best athletes in a leadership role.
"They're both pretty easy-going, but I think the way they may approach some situations may be different,'' Stacy said.
Zach admits, "I think I might be more easily-angered than Tayler. I think Tayler is really laid-back.''
Batzel has somewhat of an alternate viewpoint.
"I see Tayler as being a little more serious,'' Batzel said. "Zach has a little bit more of a dry sense of humor.''
Brad Pressel agrees.
"They're both pretty laid-back, but Zachary is more of a happy-go-lucky type of person,'' Brad said. "Tayler has a more serious side to him. I find it unusual for kids who are as competitive as they are athletically to still be as easy-going as they are.''
The twins have always gotten along wonderfully at home.
"They get along together very well,'' Brad said. "They're not just brothers, they're best friends.''
Tayler put another type of spin on that.
"It's been a lot of fun growing up and playing sports with my brother,'' he said. "It definitely wouldn't have been the same without him.''