BRIDGEPORT, W.Va. – West Liberty University two-time NCAA Division II national wrestling champion Cole Laya was honored on Friday as a 2022 MEC Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year. Laya joined Concord University baseball standout Anthony Stehlin as co-recipients of this year’s award.

    This marks the fourth time since the MEC awards began in 2015 that a WLU student-athlete has been honored as the MEC Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year. Basketball and football standout Dan Monteroso won back-to-back awards in 2017 and 2018 while Dalton Bolon, another basketball All-American, was last year’s honoree.

    A senior from Fairmont, W.Va., Laya enjoyed a spectacular 2022 season on the mat and in the classroom.

    The 125-pound dynamo was tabbed as one of six finalists for the 2022 NCAA Division II National Wrestler of the Year Award after powering through the field to win his second straight 125-pound national championship at the NCAA Division II Nationals in March. The Hilltopper veteran came up big on Championship Saturday, pinning his semifinal opponent before rolling to a major decision in the national championship match.

    Now a four-time NCAA Division II All-American and three-time Super Region 3 champion, Laya went 27-3 on the mat this season, pushing his career record to 81-9 (.900). He was voted MEC Wrestler of the Year for the second straight season and was also honored as the Super Region 3 Wrestler of the Year.

    In addition to his back-to-back national championships, Laya also earned NCAA Division II Academic All-America honors for the second consecutive year. A repeat selection for the MEC All-Academic Team, Laya was also honored by the National Wrestling Coaches Association as an NWCA Scholar All-American for the fourth straight season. An Exercise Physiology major, Laya posted perfect 4.00 GPAs in each semester during the 2021-22 academic year.

    The MEC Male and Female Scholar-Athlete Awards were created to recognize the conference’s male and female student-athletes who best pursued excellence in the classroom and on the playing field. Minimum qualifications included a 3.30 grade-point average, participation in at least 50 percent of the team’s contests in an MEC-sponsored sport and a minimum of one year in residence at the institution. Each member school nominated one male and one female student-athlete.

    The Male and Female Scholar-Athletes of the Year are selected by a vote of institutional administrators and the conference office.

MEC MALE SCHOLAR-ATHLETES OF THE YEAR

2014-15

     – Conor Branson (Charleston, Soccer)

2015-16

     – Conor Branson (Charleston, Soccer)

2016-17

     – DAN MONTEROSO (WEST LIBERTY, FOOTBALL/BASKETBALL)

2017-18

     – DAN MONTEROSO (WEST LIBERTY, BASKETBALL)

2018-19

     – John Cominsky (Charleston, Football)

2019-20

     – Tony Vezzetti (Notre Dame, Wrestling)

2020-21

     – DALTON BOLON (WEST LIBERTY, BASKETBALL)

2021-22

     – COLE LAYA (WEST LIBERTY, WRESTLING)