Meeting expectations is no sweat for relaxed Wiercioch

March 10, 2013
Three-time state champion Cody Wiercioch of Canon-McMillan, right, tangles with Dubois’ Tom Sleigh in a 170-pound match at the PIAA Class AAA championships Friday in Hershey. - Associated Press

HERSHEY – Over the past two seasons, no high school wrestler has had to put up with more than Cody Wiercioch.

The senior from Canon-McMillan sparked a blogger war when he transferred from Charleroi, then went through a nerve-wracking season where the expectations were enormous. In December, just three weeks into the season, he competed in a match against Chance Marsteller of Kennard Dale that not only was the centerpiece to the Powerade Christmas Wrestling Tournament, but also drew nationwide attention in the sport because it pitted the Nos. 1 and 2 wrestlers in the country.

In every match he competed in, Wiercioch wore the bulls-eye because of his status and talent. He was diagnosed, critiqued and scrutinized every time he walked on to the mat.

Through it all, Wiercioch wrestled as if he had no cares, felt no pressure and believed he didn’t have to prove himself to any of his doubters.

In the process, he became a three-time state champion Saturday night at the Giant Center by routing Joey Gartland of Penncrest, 7-2, in the 170-pound final. That’s two Class AAA titles and one Class AA gold medal if you’re keeping track.

Oh, and he won those Class AAA championships without giving up a takedown in those two seasons.

“He’s had a big target on his back since his freshman year,” said Canon-McMillan head coach Chris Mary. “But I never saw someone so focused. The first year at Canon-Mac, I let him know what we expected, and he bought into the team concept. He’s a team leader and a team captain. He’s scored multiple points for us. He won bouts at 70, 82 and 95, and he did it without resistance.

“Nothing phases Cody.”

He blew through the 170 weight class, pinning Cody Seibert of Big Spring 4:28, routing Tom Sleigh of Dubois, 11-3, and peppering Colton Peppelman of Central Dauphin, 16-6, before reaching Gartland.

“I just ignored (the pressure),” he said. “In every match, I was loose. I just let it go.”

Besides not giving up a takedown in two years, here are a few things you might want to remember about Wiercioch:

• He was great against the best. He won by major decision and technical fall in Canon-McMillan’s two epic matches against Central Dauphin in the PIAA Team Tournament.

• He was part of a program that won four consecutive WPIAL Team Tournaments, a record for a Class AAA school.

• He helped the Big Macs to four of the five state team titles won over the last three seasons.

• He won titles in Powerade, Ironman, and the Reno Tournament of Champions this season, and surpassed 100 wins early in the season.

• His only loss of the season came in the Marsteller match, 2-1 in an ultimate tiebreaker. He knew – and Marsteller did, too,– that the match was decided by the flip of a disk that gave Marsteller choice for the final overtime period. Still, it was packed with enough incredible moves to fill an instructional video.

Wiercioch surprised some when he chose Pitt to continue his academic and athletic careers. Many thought Cael Sanderson would lure him into Penn State’s program. Making the choice before the season began, he said, helped him concentrate just on wrestling.

“It was a big pressure-reliever,” he said. “I got it out of the way and didn’t have to worry about it. Pitt has a nice class coming in.”

Wiercioch became a more aggressive wrestler, thanks to the urging of the C-M coaching staff. They got him in better physical condition, lifting, doing conditioning work and running the hills surrounding the high school.

“I think I’ve matured, become a well-rounded wrestler,” he said.

Mary agrees.

“In the 23 years I’ve been in coaching, he’s one of the most poised and relaxed wrestlers I’ve ever been around,” Mary said. “In all three positions, he’s so talented. He has such a great feeling for the sport.”

Wiercioch will be remembered at Canon-McMillan as one of the great wrestlers in the program’s history, competing on arguably the greatest teams produced. “It was awesome to be a part of this team,” Wiercioch said.

“We’ll be remembered forever. We did some (great) stuff.”

Joe Tuscano has been with the Observer-Reporter since 1980. He has covered all sports for the newspaper, including the Steelers, Pirates, Pitt football, local college football and wrestling. He has worked for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Jeannette News-Dispatch and North Hills Record. He graduated from Duquesne University in 1980.

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