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Irwin, Laya Earn Major Awards

BRIDGEPORT, W.Va. – West Liberty University’s two-time national champion Cole Laya repeated as Mountain East Conference Wrestler of the Year and Danny Irwin earned his second straight MEC Coach of the Year Award on Monday when the league wrestling coaches announced the major award winners for the 2022 season.

Laya, a senior from Fairmont, W.Va., won his second consecutive NCAA Division II national championship at 125 pounds during last month’s NCAA D2 Nationals in St. Louis.

The Hilltopper veteran rolled to his second straight national title in style, posting a first-period fall in the championship semifinal before pitching a 9-0 major decision shutout against NCAA Division I transfer Josh Portillo of Nebraska-Kearney in the final to finish the season with a sparkling 25-4 mark.

Now a four-time NCAA Division II All-American, Laya is a three-time NCAA D2 Super Region 3 champion and is coming off back-to-back MEC championships.

Also an outstanding student, Laya was honored as a 2021 NCAA Division II Academic All-American and is a 3-time NWCA Scholar All-American.

Irwin enjoyed a spectacular third season on the hilltop, leading West Liberty to its second straight Mountain East Conference and NCAA Division II Super Region 3 championships and guiding the Black and Gold to a third-place finish at the NCAA D2 Nationals in St. Louis. That was the highest national finish of the NCAA Division II era for the WLU wrestling program and the best in nearly three decades, dating back to a runner-up finish in the 1995 NAIA Nationals.

Eight of Irwin’s wrestlers qualified to compete at Nationals and five of them came home as NCAA Division II All-Americans.

In addition to Laya’s 125-pound national title, Connor Craig was runner-up at 184 pounds for the second straight year, sophomore Ty McGeary placed third at 174, Ty Warner was fourth in the nation at 141 and senior Logan Kemp placed eighth at 197.

Davis & Elkins’ Cole Houser rounded out the MEC’s major wrestling awards as the MEC Freshman of the Year. The 165-pound runner-up at the MEC Championships, Houser posted a 19-10 record in his first collegiate season with nine of his 10 losses coming against national qualifiers or NCAA Division I foes.

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