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Etzel, Bryson make impact for W&J, WVU wrestling teams

| Friday, Jan. 4, 2013, 12:02 a.m.

Coming off one of Washington and Jefferson College's finest individual wrestling seasons in nearly a decade, Josh Etzel begins the 2012-13 with a prestigious ranking by D3Wrestle.com.

A 157-pound junior and graduate of Elizabeth Forward High School, Etzel is ranked sixth at his weight class in the NCAA Division III.

Last year, Etzel became the first W&J wrestler to earn an invitation to the NCAA Tournament since 2003 after he won the 141-pound Midwest Regional Championship at Case Western Reserve (Cleveland, Ohio). Etzel was also the runner-up at the 2011 NCAA Midwest Regional He also won a President's Athletic Conference (PAC) title and finished the season with a 24-5 record. The 2011-12 National Wrestling Coaches Association Division III Scholar All-American owns a 31-6 career record heading into his junior season.

A chemistry and pre-med major, Etzel has earned a 3.6 cumulative grade-point average (GPA) at Washington and Jefferson. He transferred at the start of the spring semester from Lake Erie (Painesville) College.

In addition, the Presidents' wrestling team was one of 25 squads to earn the NWCA Division III Scholar Team Award last season. The Presidents' 3.3 team GPA ranked 20th in Division III. Two of Etzel's teammates received honorable-mention status at their respective weight classes: 197-pound senior Robbie Mies and 165-pound junior David Dibenedetto Etzel is the highest ranked PAC wrestler in the preseason. The only other PAC wrestler ranked in the preseason is Waynesburg University senior Alex Crown, who is 10th at 133 pounds.

So far this season Etzel is 18-3 overall to raise his career mark to 49-9. He was the team's lone place-winner at the 2012 Rochester (N.Y.) Institute of Technology Invitational after winning four of five matches to finish third. Washington & Jefferson, under the direction of second-year head coach Tommy Prairie, resumed the season by competing Jan. 5 at the 14-team Waynesburg University Invitational. The Presidents opened their season Nov. 3 at the King's Monarch Invitational.

Moving up in class

A student-athlete from Fayette County is playing a significant role in West Virginia University's wrestling team's transition into the rugged Big 12 Conference this season.

Albert Gallatin High School graduate Lance Bryson is in his junior year this season for the Mountaineers.

Last season he served as a team captain and finished with a 25-16 overall record at 174 pounds and received an at-large bid to the NCAA Division I National Wrestling Championships. He went 1-2 in his initial national appearance, which included a 2-1 overtime win against Wyoming's Pat Martinez. Bryson was ranked as high as 17th in his weight class and second on the team with six wins against ranked opponents.

Bryson placed fifth at the Eastern Wrestling League Championships and the Washington and Jefferson College tournaments. He was second at the Navy Classic.

A standout student, Bryson was a member of the National Wrestling Coaches Association's Individual All-Academic Wrestling Team and also was named to the 2012 Capital One District 2 Academic All-District At-Large Team.

His solid season came after being a medical redshirt in 2010-11 and a redshirt in 2009-10.

As a freshman in 2008-2009, Bryson led all Mountaineer freshmen with 12 wins and was fifth among all WVU wrestlers in takedowns with 28.

In high school Bryson finished third at the PIAA State Tournament in both 2007 and 2008 and was a four-time section champion. He won the prestigious 171-pound Powerade Tournament individual championship in 2007. His scholastic wrestling coach was Duane Dupont. Bryson graduated from Albert Gallatin with an above 4.0 cumulative grade-point average and was also a three-year letterman in cross country.

Bryson was ranked 14th at 174 pounds in WIN Magazine's 2012-13 Preseason Tournament Power Index. However, he has moved up to the 184-pound class this season and is 8-5 overall with one pin and two major decision victories.

West Virginia, coached by 34-year veteran Craig Turnbull, resumes the season with a 2 p.m. dual meet Jan. 6 at Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania.

Bruce Wald is a freelance writer.

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