District notebook: Saint Vincent football star still shining

Wirkowski big hit

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The final game of Dan Wirkowski's college football career ended as so few do -- in a tie -- as competitors in All-American Bowl had to leave the Metrodome field at the end of regulation to make way for a Minnesota Vikings' fan appreciation event.

But if that were the last organized game he played, it was a memorable one.

The Saint Vincent senior defensive back and Shaler graduate was one of 81 participants in the Dec. 28 game that included top players from every level of college football, but primarily from Division II and III.

"It was cool to play against some of the best players in the country," Wirkowski said.

"I'd say the experience was pretty fun."

Fellow WPIAL product Alex Baroffio, a Washington & Jefferson wide receiver and Bethel Park graduate, also played in that game after finishing a career in which he became the school's all-time leading receiver with 269 receptions and 3,204 receiving yards.

Wirkowski's inclusion came from a simple process.

After a standout performance in a 34-7 loss Oct. 5 against Carnegie Mellon, a game in which he had five tackles and an interception, he was nominated for the bowl by the radio station broadcasting the game.

By the end of the season, Wirkowski was fourth on the team with 52 tackles and led the Bearcats with three interceptions.

That kind of production continued into the All-American Bowl as he had two tackles and recovered a fumble.

Perhaps the greatest testament to his play was that the wide receiver he covered never had a pass thrown his way

"I don't know whether that's a good or a bad thing," Wirkowski said of the feat. "I guess it's a good thing -- I guess he was covered, right?"

After transferring to Saint Vincent from Clarion after his freshman season -- a move he said was prompted by his need for a change of scenery -- Wirkowski made his mark in three seasons with the Bearcats.

He recorded at least 50 tackles in each season at Saint Vincent and wound up with nine interceptions.

Team success, proved elusive, though.

Despite his contributions, the Bearcats went 6-25 in Wirkowski's three seasons, including consecutive winless seasons in 2012 and 2013.

Though his collegiate career is over, Wirkowski's football days might not be done.

One of his coaches said he might get Wirkowski a tryout with the Power of the Arena Football League and, if that doesn't come to fruition, the marketing major will attempt to get a job in business.

IUP on big-time roll

The IUP men's basketball team built a 108-21 record from the beginning of the 2009-10 season to the end of last season.

This year's team, however, could prove to be its best in a long time.

The Crimson Hawks are 10-0, a start that has vaulted them to No. 6 in the most recent NABC Division II poll.

They have won those 10 games by an average of 18.1 points, with all but one decided by at least 13 points.

Guard Mathis Keita, a Gonzaga transfer, leads the team in scoring with 18.5 points per game while shooting 55.5 percent from the field and 39.1 percent on 3-pointers.

Rankings

West Liberty (8-0) leads all but one NCAA school in points per game and is the top-ranked team in Division II.


Craig Meyer: cmeyer@post-gazette.com and Twitter @CraigMeyerPG.

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