On July 16, Matthew Sechrist reeled in his biggest catch to date. This catch, an eight-foot-long lemon shark, weighed 250 pounds and was found 200 yards off of Vilano beach.
Matthew, his father and a few friends targeted the shark using a fish head as bait. Once the shark was on the line, Matthew and his father took turns reeling in the shark, with Matthew reeling for the entire last 20 minutes of the struggle.
But this catch certainly wasn’t one of Sechrist’s first—just days before he caught a three-foot-long cobia on an offshore fishing trip, and he’s been fishing since childhood. “I caught my first fish and had it mounted when I was four. It was a trout,” Matthew remembers.
Matthew is a 19-year-old student who was born with no legs, but he has never let his disability stop him. He has participated in an array of sports throughout his life, from basketball to rugby to waterskiing to snow skiing– he was even on his middle school wrestling team.
“I’ve been into sports my whole life. I grew up outside, so it’s been my mentality for as long as I can remember to always stay active.”
This mentality has taken Matthew onto his next journey, which he begins this week.
On July 21st, just after his big catch on Vilano beach, Matthew moved back to his home state of Pennsylvania to start his degree at the Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. Here, he plans to study human performance, hoping to earn a Bachelor’s degree in Personal Development, Health and Physical Education. With this degree, Matthew will pursue a career in physical training and hopes to be able to work with other people who have disabilities to encourage them to live an active and healthy lifestyle.
“I’ve wanted to do this for a long time and I’m really excited to start classes,” Matthew explained. Along with his studies, Matthew will be playing Division 2 NCAA wheelchair basketball at Edinboro.
Matthew moved from his home state of Pennsylvania to Florida four years ago, when he began attending Fleming High. While living in Clay County, he got involved at Brooks Rehabilitation Center. Here, he joined the Brooks Baller’s basketball team, and also participated in a ton of other activities, such as bowling, waterskiing, and surfing. “Everyone at Brooks is great, they’re all really awesome! Especially my basketball team, I’ve gotten really close to them and am still going to keep in contact while I’m here in Pennsylvania.”
The move back to Pennsylvania is exciting, but not without its challenges. Matthew has gotten used to Florida weather and the water sports that he won’t be able to do most months up north. “I’m also going to miss my family and friends, and it’s going to be an adjustment playing on a new team and getting used to new teammates and a new style of play.”
While transitioning can be a little tough, we doubt Matthew will have too much trouble. It’s pretty obvious that he is up to any challenge, and his next four years of schooling to become a physical trainer will undoubtedly be just as inspiring as all of his accomplishments so far to date!