Mick Nicola is in his first season as head coach of the Bellaire Big Reds wrestling program.
However, he is no stranger to the sport.
A 2006 St. John Central graduate, Nicola was state runnerup at 145 pounds as a senior while placing fourth as a junior.
He was a three-time state qualifier.
The new Big Reds' mat boss also experienced great success in the OVAC tournament. He captured two titles while placing second and third the other two years.
After graduating from St. John Central, Nicola headed to Ashland University. He wrestled one year for the Purple Eagles before transferring to Ohio University for his final three years.
He comes to the Big Reds after serving two years as an assistant at Union Local.
Now his task at hand is trying to revive Bellaire's once proud program which has fallen upon some hard times, of late, as just five grapplers dot this year's roster for the 61st annual Ron Mauck Ohio Valley Athletic Conference Tournament, which begins a three-day stand at WesBanco Arena in downtown Wheeling on Thursday with Olympic-style ceremonies at 6 p.m.
The event runs through Saturday night's championship finals, which start at 6:30.
Senior Myliek Green is the unquestionable leader of the squad at 160 pounds. He is joined by juniors Austin McConville (152) and Brandon Laughman (170); sophomore Dylan Marling (113); and freshman Nathan Wilhelm (132).
"Bellaire High is in the process of change in the coaching staff," Nicola said. "As things settle in for the coaches, more and more will fall in place for the school, and most importantly, the kids.
"We have a younger group that is very motivated, so by channeling the energy of the younger group, we plan on making some noise in a couple of years."
Green, who placed sixth at 170 at last season's OVAC Tournament, has won 17 of his 19 matches thus far, including the championship at the Rick Link Union Local Invitational, as well as the the Doan Ford Barnesville Invite. He was second at the America's Best Value Inn Tournament in St. Clairsville.
"Myliek is embarking upon his final season of high school wrestling, and he has adapted some ways of wrestling that could sometimes help him or hurt him," Nicola said of Green, who starred as an inside linebacker on the Big Reds Division VI playoff football team last fall. "Staying motivated and dedicated to the sport over these next two months is key for the success in this athlete. Taking sixth as a junior, we are hoping to have a solid tournament while coming home with some big wins."
McConville, who is 12-11 so far, is another individual who Nicola thinks can reach the podium, if he wrestles up to his abilities.
"Austin is on a slow rise to becoming a very competitive athlete in this sport," Nicola said of the Big Reds' cornerback. "He has a great work ethic and a tremendous attitude about what needs to be accomplished. Keeping this pace will do wonders for his accomplishments in the next two years."
Laughman, who transferred from Martins Ferry during the summer, is 4-3 in limited action. He ran for nearly 700 yards as a fullback for the Big Reds despite sitting out the mandatory five games, according to OHSAA rules.