2 polls rank W&J football team in Top 25

| Sunday, July 13, 2014, 9:41 p.m.

Washington & Jefferson College's football team, defending President's Athletic Conference champions, has been ranked in two Division III football national Top 25 polls.

The Sporting News College Football Preview lists the Presidents as the nation's 22nd-ranked team, while Lindy's College Football Preview places W&J as its preseason No. 24 team.

Washington & Jefferson finished the 2013 season with an 8-3 record and claimed the program's 23rd PAC championship. W&J lost to eventual NCAA national finalist Mount Union, 34-20, in the first round in Alliance, Ohio.

The Presidents' 23 NCAA Division III playoff appearances are second behind Mount Union (25) in history.

Mike Sirianni, W&J's 12th-year head coach, owns a 101-24 career record (.808). He is second among all NCAA divisions in winning percentage, behind only Ohio State's Urban Meyer (minimum 10 years of experience as a head coach).

One of the Presidents' top returning players from a year ago is senior right offensive tackle Zach Wildey from Connellsville High School.

A 6-foot-2-inch, 280-pound senior, Wildey was the lead run blocker for a W&J offense that finished 20th in 2013 among all NCAA Division III teams with 261 first downs. The Presidents had the 45th-ranked offense nationally at 428.6 yards per game. Wildey also protected the Presidents' quarterbacks who combined to post the nation's 41st-best completion percentage (.626).

He was a first-team all-conference and all Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference selection last season.

W&J begins the 2014 season three victories shy of becoming the third football program in NCAA Division III history to win 700 games.

The Presidents open the season by hosting Wooster College at 7 p.m. Sept. 6m.

West earns merit award

Belle Vernon resident Dr. Thomas West is a 2014 recipient of the Pennsylvania Athletic Trainers' Society Distinguished Merit Award.

The award recognizes BOC-certified athletic trainers who have been in practice in Pennsylvania for a minimum of 15 years and who demonstrate distinguished professional achievement in the practice of athletic training in their respective employment settings.

He is a professor and former chair of the Department of Health Science at nearby California University of Pennsylvania.

West is one of three recipients this year. Other honorees are Rob Blanc, head athletic trainer for football at the University of Pittsburgh, and Sandy Bush, director of the athletic training education program at Messiah College.

The awards were presented during the PATS Annual Meeting and Clinical Symposium, held June 11-14 at the Wyndham Hotel in Gettysburg.

Pitt to host ACC wrestling tourney

It was recently announced that the University of Pittsburgh's wrestling team will host the 2015 Atlantic Coast Conference Wrestling Championships on March 8 at the Petersen Events Center.

Many area fans should be attracted to Pitt's entire home season once finalized. Former Charleroi and Canon-McMillan standout Cody Wiercioch make his debut after a redshirt 2013-14 season.

A three-time scholastic state champion, Wiercioch competed in open tournaments as an unattached 165-pound wrestler this past season. He compiled an 8-2 overall with one technical fall and two major decision victories.

He finished second at the Clarion University Open and third at the Edinboro University Open tourneys.

In 2013-14, Pitt's first season of ACC competition, the Panthers won the regular-season title and finished second at the ACC Championship.

Leading the Panthers at heavyweight last season was Belle Vernon native P.J. Tasser. A two-time NCAA qualifier who completed in five different weight classes, Tasser went 39-18 over his finals two seasons.

Pitt was one of three ACC schools that finished in the National Collegiate Wrestling Coaches Association Top 25. The Panthers earned a No. 10 ranking from NCWA, followed by No. 12 Virginia and No. 16 Virginia Tech.

Bruce Wald is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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