Wheeling U. lands Bellaire’s Sechrest and Nolan
BELLAIRE — The Bellaire Big Reds have enjoyed much gridiron success during Mark Spigarelli’s four years at the helm.
Trace Sechrest and Chase Nolan have played major roles in the Big Reds reaching the OHSAA playoffs three times during that span. The pair of two-way stars have opted to remain teammates at the next level, hoping to help expedite the building process at Wheeling University.
The Cardinals are directed by Martins Ferry grad Zac Bruney and are primed for just their second season of varsity competition.
Sechrest was a rare four-year starter for Bellaire. He was a one-man wrecking crew at linebacker.
The 6-2, 220-pounder was a first-team all-Ohio selection as a sophomore while earning second-team honors as a junior, recording over 100 tackles each campaign.
As fate would have it, Sechrest, who also sparkled at fullback, incurred a season-ending injury in game three this past fall.
“Wheeling University really felt like a great fit. Their coaches are really good. I think it is an all-around great fit,” Sechrest said. “West Liberty was my other main option, but I just couldn’t pass up on Wheeling. It is a great opportunity.”
Sechrest plans on majoring in education, laying the groundwork for a career in teaching and coaching.
“It’s been a great four years at Bellaire. My senior year didn’t go the way I would have liked, but I had a lot of fun and played with some great guys. “I will never forget it,” Sechrest said. “There was nothing like making the playoffs. The atmosphere was great, even this year being on the sidelines.
“I want to thank my parents, my grandparents, aunts and uncles. They all have helped me along the way,” he added. “I want to thank Coach Bruney for the opportunity he has presented me. I also must thank Coach Spig for coaching me for four years and helping to make me the player I am today.”
Sechrest has also participated in basketball and track during he Big Reds’ tenure. He is a National Honor Society member and has served on Student Council.
Sechrest comes from an athletic family. He is the son of Mike and Jenny Sechrest. Mike set the Bellaire High touchdown record in 1991. Jenny, meanwhile, played volleyball and softball at Wilmington College.
Trace’s uncle, Bubba Sechrest, was a standout lineman on both of Bellaire’s state finals teams, while his grandfather, Gary Sechrest, is one of the best lineman in Big Reds’ annals.
NOLAN, meanwhile, was a three-year starter for Spigarelli. He enjoyed a monster senior season. He was a force on the offensive line and was simply a terror at defensive tackle.
Nolan recorded 68 tackles, 24 going for losses, impressive totals for an interior lineman. Those numbers propelled him into being a second-team all-Ohio selection. In addition, he was a first-team all-OVAC, all-District and all-Valley honoree.
The icing on the cake for all those sweet honors was Nolan being selected to play in the Ohio-North South Game this spring in Massillon.
“Wheeling University felt like home. When I stepped on campus I had the gut feeling that Wheeling was the perfect fit,” Nolan said. “I see what Coach Bruney wants to do with the program and I want to be a part of it. I want to help him reach what he wants to reach.
“It gives me a good feeling that Coach Bruney believes in me and that I can help his program achieve his goals,” he added. “Overall, I have a great feeling about Wheeling University.
Nolan also considered Mount Union and Marietta.
“Chase was another senior who worked very hard in the weight room and on the practice field. Many teams had to double-team him because he was a dominating force at defensive tackle his senior year,” Spigarelli said. “Offensively, Chase played center and guard and did an excellent job at both positions.”
Nolan also played baseball for the Big Reds.
“I would not be where I am today if not for my teammates. They pushed me along the way. I also wanted to help the Bellaire Big Reds to go back to the glory days of the 1990s and the great teams they had back then,” Nolan said. “The playoffs were a sweet experience. It was a different culture, one that I want to experience in college. Stepping on that field for the playoffs felt like you were on top of the world.
“I want to thank God first of all. Without Him I would not be here. He blessed me through my entire life. I also have to thank my parents and my brother. He is one of my biggest role models,” he continued. “I also want to thank my family, friends, teammates and Coach Spig. He put it in my head to be successful you have to hit the weight room hard. I took that to heart and it really paid off.”
Chase is the son of Tom and Robin Nolan of Neffs.
“Trace is definitely one of the hardest working kids that I have had for the past four years. He would probably have been an all-stater for a third straight season, but even after he was injured he a great teammate. I felt bad for him and his family after all the work he put in,” Spigarelli said. “Chase dominated on both sides of the ball this season. He was deserving of being named all-state this year. I am also happy he gets to play in the Ohio North-South Game.
“They both are hard-working, dedicated and great teammates. They loved being here and were proud to wear the Red & Black,” he added. “They are going to the next level for a reason. Both are committed enough where I think they will do great things at Wheeling University. Trace and Chase will also be successful in life. They come from two great families.”
Bruney is obviously pleased to add both Big Reds to his Cardinal grid building project.
“Trace was really good as a junior, on both sides of the ball – excellent tackler, does what you want as an LB in stopping the run, takes great angles and is a very good athlete. Trace could play either side of the ball – as a linebacker or even an H back on offense,” Bruney said. “Chase addresses another need for us as an inside defensive tackle/nose guard. He has played at a very high level on both sides of the ball. Chase is very tough, physical at the point of attack and plays with his hands really well.
“I am really excited about both these guys joining us. Above all else, they’re excellent young men character wise, do a tremendous job in the classroom, come from terrific families and were coached really well in high school,” he added. “Coach Spig does an excellent job, especially with the way they play defense. Both Trace and Chase are ultra competitive, love the weight room, love the work that it takes to be good and will fit right in with the culture that we are continuing to build here with our student-athletes.”