The National Wrestling Coaches Association ranked the Mercyhurst Lakers fourth in a preseason poll released on Oct. 28.
The poll showed how the top 25 schools were measured before the start of the regular season. Coming in at first, second and third place were St. Cloud State, Maryville and Pitt-Johnstown. St. Cloud State received a clear majority in the poll with 74 points, followed by Maryville with 50. Only three votes separated Pitt-Johnstown (43) and Mercyhurst (40).
Team Graduate Assistant August Mizia, a recent alumnus of Mercyhurst having graduating just last year, was available to weigh in on the ranking. He also has two brothers on the team, senior Francis Mizia and junior Paul Mizia.
“It’s status quo at this point,” said August Mizia. “We’ve developed a culture here and an expectation of success … that is about what we expect, to be near the top.”
Last year, the Lakers finished fourth in the NCAA, outperforming all previous seasons under Head Coach Mike Wehler.
As coach, Wehler has racked up a record of 120-54-2, and has had 21 All-Americans on his squads since his start in 2007.
Mizia puts the high ranking all on the accomplishments of the program within the past few years. “We’ve got a few really old seasoned vets, they‘re some of the best that have ever come through here,” Mizia said. Four Lakers were placed high in polls for specific weight classes. Senior Willie Bohince enters the 2016-17 season being ranked by NCAA as second in the nation for the 125 lb. weight class, joined by Francis Mizia at third for 165 lb. and senior Dakota DesLauriers, who is ranked fourth in the 184 lb. weight class.
Senior Andy Welton also comes in at third in the heavyweight poll. All four have received All-American status in their careers, with Bohince being a three-timer in addition to being an NCAA DII Finalist.
August Mizia and Welton also were two-time All-Americans.
“Guys are starting to come into their own, we’ve got a lot of young guys this year. I think the guys are excited to get their hands on somebody in a different colored singlet,” Mizia said. There are 16 freshman coming out this year for the squad of 35.
“It is a good mix,” said August Mizia. “We have got established guys and then we have 4 to 5 young guys coming in here looking to really make their mark. It is an interesting dynamic because you have got the whole spectrum: freshmen to redshirt seniors.”
The Lakers hit the mats for the first time this season on Nov. 12 at the Mount Union Invitational in Alliance, Ohio.