Resident mechanic competes at national level, prepares for career

by Laura Bednar

Nicholas Schaub grew up around cars, but didn’t take an interest in working on them until he bought a Jeep at age 14 and got his hands dirty.

Schaub is a Sagamore resident and ’22 Nordonia High School graduate. He took classes through the Cuyahoga Valley Career Center during his junior and senior years. He originally took a power equipment technology course, which he said sparked his interest in applying for the entire program.

During his senior year, he planned to go to the SkillsUSA Championships for power equipment, but that particular competition was canceled due to staffing shortages. However, the diesel equipment technology competition had an opening.

“I was skeptical at first,” Schaub said, adding that he did not compete in a local or regional competition before heading to states in Columbus with 13 other vocational schools. Despite this being his first competition, Schaub took first place in the states and went on to nationals in Atlanta, Georgia, in late June.

During the state and national competitions, Schaub said there are several stations that test a competitor’s skills in electrical work, diagnosing engines, testing hydraulics, transmissions and live engine problems. The difference between power equipment and diesel is the sheer size of the parts.

Diesel components are “quadruple the size of regular equipment,” Schaub said. “It’s much cooler.”

Between the state and national competitions, Schaub had applied and was accepted to the Ohio CAT “Think Big” program, in which he splits his time between Owens Community College and apprenticing at the Ohio CAT equipment and service location in Broadview Heights. While at Ohio CAT, Schaub works with a mentor on heavy construction equipment like bulldozers and excavators. He used this experience to prepare for the national competition.

At nationals, Schaub competed for a day at various stations from 7 a.m.-5:30 p.m. He came in 20th place out of 42 competitors, but said he “learned a lot and met so many people” through the experience.

When he completes the Think Big program, he will have an associate’s degree in applied science and a job waiting for him at Ohio CAT.

Schaub continues to learn outside of the classroom as he is surrounded by skilled mechanics. His father worked on cars, building a show truck as a teen, and his neighbor Dan Renovetz has worked in the truck/diesel industry for 50 years and was an advisory board member for the truck/diesel curriculum at Cuyahoga Valley Career Center for 28 years.

“I met Dan three years ago, and he has opened a new door of what to know,” said Schaub. “There’s always more to learn.”

Renovetz said he owned half a dozen hobby trucks including a 1977 GMC that Schaub’s dad, Don, took in 2020 when it had to be moved because of a property sale.

“Nick and I attempted to see if the engine would run, after being dormant for about 20 years,” Renovetz said. “I coached Nick to find a potential problem before it was running. Two injectors were stuck that could have caused the engine to overspeed and potentially destroy itself. We removed them, using penetrating oil to cut the varnish accumulation from the old fuel, freed up the part without dismantling the parts, reinstalled them, and with a whiff of starting fluid, the legendary 6-71 [engine] came to life, as was expected.”

Schaub also completed a project for Renovetz as part of his CVCC assignments, in which he swapped engines on a leaf vacuum. 

“During my occasional visits to the Schaub garage over the last few years, I saw that this young lad had remarkable natural ability, working on lawn equipment, dirt bikes, skid steers and off-road 4-wheelers,” said Renovetz. “The prospect of his choosing a career path at the vocational educational level to benefit the industry I retired from almost 24 years ago, enthralled me to become his number one supporter.” ∞

Photo: Nick Schaub leans on a 1977 GMC truck he got running after is sat dormant for 20 years. Photo submitted.