Pat Pecora likes what he sees from the Pitt-Johnstown wrestling team.

And so do a lot of other coaches across the country.

Pecora’s Mountain Cats are ranked third in the NCAA Division II Wrestling Coaches’ Association (NWCA) preseason poll. Pitt-Johnstown has 144 points, behind only the University of Nebraska-Omaha (160 points) and Minnesota State-Mankato (148 points).

The Mountain Cats finished fourth in Division IIlast season.

UPJ also has three of the nation’s top-ranked wrestlers in the presesason poll. Seniors Ryon Mazzocco (125 pounds) and Thad Benton (141) are ranked No. 1 at their respective weights, as is sophomore 184-pounder Mike Corcetti.

“I like this team a lot,” Pecora said. “I think we have a good group of young men. Above all, they like to work hard. They’re the types of kids that put the extra time in on their own. That’s the key. When I walk to my office, I have to walk past the wrestling room. When I see kids in there or in the weight room, or in the gym on their own time, that’s when I know we’re going to have a good team. That’s what we have this year.”

Benton is a returning national champion at 141 pounds. He posted a 30-5 overall record last year.

Mazzocco was 27-11 and finished second in the nation as a junior.

Corcetti went 27-22 but finished strong to place fourth in his first trip to the nationals.

“I saw that and said ‘Wow, three guys ranked No. 1.’ But when I thought about it, I guess they should be,”Pecora said, noting that all of the wrestlers who placed higher than Mazzocco or Corcetti were seniors.

Junior All-American Eli Garshnick (174 pounds) and senior Zach Majocha were each ranked sixth in the NWCA poll. Garshnick finished his sophomore season with a sixth-place finish at nationals, while Majocha is coming off of back-to-back appearances at the national tournament.

The Mountain Cats open the season at the Slippery Rock Open on Saturday.

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