Unexpected homecoming: Sellers to coach varsity soccer at Norwalk

·6 min read

Jun. 10—NORWALK — Just about all the usual sayings applied.

Whether it was life throwing a curveball, expecting the unexpected or never knowing what can happen — those analogies all apply to the last month-plus for Wes Sellers.

"It really was out of the blue," Sellers said. "It was nothing I had ever really seriously thought about before they reached out to me. It just kind of happened."

On June 1, Sellers, a 2002 Norwalk High School graduate, was officially hired as the varsity boys soccer coach at his alma mater. He's now in charge of a program he once starred for two decades prior.

The previous head coach, NHS graduate Jon Kijowski, took a new job out of the area, which created the sudden opening at the end of April. That put Norwalk Schools in a tight window to find a replacement with summer break looming.

Sellers said he was contacted shortly after, and the wheels started to turn. An assistant basketball coach for the past 10 years at Norwalk, Sellers, a teacher at Huron, had also previously coached junior varsity soccer for the Tigers.

"The idea that 'I want to be the head soccer coach at Norwalk' wasn't on my list of things to check off or anything like that," Sellers said. "But after hearing from (Norwalk athletic director) Josh (Schlotterer), I gave it some more thought. Josh and I spoke for a little bit just to get more information and details on the job ... I just kind of gave it more thought."

Sellers also coached youth soccer for the teams his two children, Benny and Brynn, played for. After his initial hesitance, he thought about how much he enjoyed the sport and enjoyed coaching in general.

"It's a great opportunity to run my own program," he said. "I've always helped with basketball and various sports, but I've never been in charge of a whole program. The opportunity was exciting. And it's neat symmetry. This fall will mark 20 years since I played soccer at Norwalk.

"So while it wasn't anything on my list of goals in life or anything like that, the more I thought about it, the more excited I got about the potential — and here we are."

Sellers, who will remain an assistant coach on Steve Gray's basketball staff while also remaining in his teaching position at Huron, said he believes the experience from sitting on the bench during the winter will carry over this fall.

"I think the basketball influence will be very large," he said. "Being around Coach Gray and how things have been done in his program, and the respect I have for him and the way he does things, I will for sure be looking to carry over some of those traits to the soccer program.

"But in hearing everything that Jon did before me, the program is in a good position in terms of expectation and discipline," he added. "I'm just hoping to continue that success even though we've graduated a large number of kids."

Sellers also believes staying around the sport of soccer with Brynn and Benny, who will be entering fourth and third grades, respectively, will also help with the transition. His wife, Allison, is a mathematics teacher at NHS as well.

"We play almost a year-round schedule with the kids and I stayed connected to the sport with that," he said. "I spent four years coaching JV at Huron, so I got to see the inner workings of that program. And, I think there are a lot of similarities between basketball and soccer in terms of how you see the field and pass the ball.

"There are a lot of similarities with coaching positioning, passing and defending — just a lot of overlap there. Coaching basketball has helped me see the field in a different way and allowed me to stay connected with that. I think soccer has changed since I played, but I also think the main goal is the main goal — don't let the other team score, and try and score more than them."

As a player, Sellers was the team MVP and top defender on a Norwalk team that finished 13-3-2 with a sectional title and a top 10 ranking in the Division II state coaches poll for the 2001 season. He was a first team selection to the United Independent Conference — the Truckers were not affiliated with a league at the time — and was a first team North Central Ohio Coaches Association choice both on the field and academically.

Sellers will also keep it in the Norwalk family when it comes to his coaching staff. Former teammates Troy Pittenger (2001 graduate) and Justin Kijowski (2003 graduate) will be his varsity assistants, while 2011 grad and former player Jordan Duncan will head the JV team.

"I don't think you can get two better guys in terms of soccer knowledge and ties to the program," Sellers said. "Troy also previously coached under Coach (Paul) Lamb for a bit, and Justin (Jon's older brother) was very successful coaching the Huron girls team for a number of years.

"Jordan has never coached before, but after meeting with him, you can tell he is very eager to give back to the program. I'm very excited to get to work with those guys."

Sellers is inheriting a team that finished 14-4 overall as SBC Lake Division and Div. II sectional champions in 2020. The Truckers fell in the final seconds of a district semifinal against Ontario.

But gone from that team are 10 seniors who graduated last weekend, including Defiance College-bound Will Gehlhausen, the program's single-game, season and career goals leader.

However, Sellers noted that similar to the basketball program, Norwalk boys soccer has been a consistent winner over the years as solid players have gone through the program.

"We started our summer conditioning and workouts on Monday, and through the first three days we've had 95 percent participation each day," Sellers said. "I talked to the kids about the tradition and legacy this program has, and I do think we'll be competitive this year.

"Obviously I haven't seen us play a game yet, but we have 11 incoming freshman that have talent in that group and there are 13 juniors. That's a large chunk of the kids and a lot of competition for playing time. To already have 95 percent participation and see them working very hard, we're very pleased with that kind of start."