In addition, the men’s and women’s teams received in the NAIA rankings as the Eagles prepare for their second season.
Avila head coach Graham Karwath begins his second season with the vast majority of the athletes who finished fifth at the KCAC Championships, including all seven conference placers from last winter: Logan Johnson, Christian Knighton, Blake Becker, Brad Mahoney, Jake Callahan, Garine Gibson, and Nathan Coley.
“I’m really just blessed to be part of a program at a school like Avila, which has been supportive of our program,” Karwath said at KCAC Men’s Wrestling Virtual Media Day. “Now we get to implement some things. We have some returners that know the ropes. It’s good. Hopefully, we can become a well-oiled machine here and continue to build on the little things that we’re doing and do things the right way.”
Karwath highlighted a pair of newcomers as probable impact contributors in the middleweights for Avila this year at Media Day. Grain Valley, Missouri native Jett Merlo enters his first year as an Eagle after qualifying for Nationals twice at Neosho County Community College. Two-time Missouri high school state champion Karter Brink joins the Eagles after starting his college career at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M.
National-ranked Daryus Webb was Avila’s lone preseason-ranked wrestler last year, helping the team get on the national map before they even took the mat in their inaugural season. Webb didn’t get the opportunity to wrestle much in his first season in Kansas City, but his pedigree and track record from his days at Williams Baptist University, plus the potential he’s shown as an Eagle, helped him earn the #19 ranking at 184 heading into 2022.
On the women’s side, several key returners are back, but there are many new faces for Associate Head Coach Zach Revier, who is also the director of the women’s program. Former Arkansas state champ Byanca Cook headlines a freshman class that also includes Julia Datus, Jada Meredith, and Kirsten Bruegel.
“Collectively, they’ve all taken really great strides this year,” Revier said at KCAC Women’s Wrestling Virtual Media Day this week. “The girls are working really hard, both on and off the mat. I believe they all have the ability to do well in all areas here at Avila University.”
National-ranked Zoey Mzeru and Markayla Lottie, are the team’s top two returners. Mzeru placed fourth at the KCAC conference in March and now enters the 2022 season with a national ranking of #17 at 109.
Lottie had an outstanding freshman campaign, winning MVP accolades from the team and Freshman of the Year honors from the department. She was the first Eagle to win KCAC Wrestler of the Week twice; was the first to defeat a wrestler in the Top 15; was the first to win an open tournament, and was the first to win a pair of matches at Nationals in March. Lottie enters the 2022 season ranked #15 in the nation at 116. Jessica Miller and Susana Mondragon also return to Avila, with Mondragon being one of the three Eagles to win a match at Nationals last year.