Guarita kicks his way to the top

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Luis Kugelmas Guarita, a junior kicker and punter on Augustana University’s football team, is making waves this year as he continues to play a huge role in his team’s wins. Unlike most players recruited for Augustana’s football team, Guarita was born in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and spent part of his childhood there.

Growing up, the 6-foot-4, 175-pound punter and kicker played mostly soccer and basketball. When he was in the seventh grade, he and his family moved to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to be closer to his older sister, as she attended college in the states.

Guarita never expected to be playing college football. Instead, he wanted to make it onto a college soccer team. However, after watching football on TV and playing football video games, he became interested in the kicker role.

It was then that his desire to be a football kicker trumped his old dreams of playing soccer.

But it wasn’t until the summer before his junior year at Saint Thomas Aquinas High School that he tried kicking a football. Guarita joined his high school’s accomplished football team — who won three consecutive state championships during his time there — as their third-string kicker. Despite being third string, his coaches saw his talent and recommended him to recruiting teams.

Augustana’s head football coach, Jerry Olszewski, and former assistant coach, J.R. Rozier, heard about Guarita and traveled to Florida to visit with him during his senior year of high school. They convinced Guarita to scope out Augustana’s campus and football program. After seeing him play, Olszewski made up his mind to take a chance on Guarita.

Now in his junior year at Augie, Guarita has made a name for himself both on his team and in national statistics.

This year, he is tied for fifth place in the nation at the Division II level for field goals per game, averaging two goals per game. He’s also fourth in the nation for his field goal percentage, with 92.3 percent accuracy.

Two games stick out to Guarita this season.

The first was the annual Key to the City game earlier this year against longtime rival University of Sioux Falls. The Vikings were able to secure a 20-13 victory over the Cougars — in part due to two field goals by Guarita. 

“The USF game was really fun, you know, getting the key to the city,” Guarita said.

The second was Augustana’s Viking Days win against St. Cloud State on Oct. 12. In overtime, Guarita hit the 35-yard field goal that pushed the Vikings to the 16-13 win.

“[Hitting a game-winning field goal] was always a dream of mine since I started,” he said. “[It] was also amazing seeing how happy everyone was — my teammates, my coaches, everyone.”

Not only has Guarita seen success on the field, but he has also gained respect and admiration from fellow team members and his coaches. When asked to describe him, they painted a picture of a young man full of personality, drive, humility and humor, both on and off the field.

Junior defensive back Syd Capers described Guarita as a “loving and care-free person.” Capers first met Guarita at a Florida airport on their way to Sioux Falls. He immediately knew he and Guarita were going to be friends.

Capers also admires Guarita’s “nice and friendly” attributes.  During any game, Capers said Luis is “ collected in crisis” and has “laser focus.”

Connor Hansen, a freshman on the offensive line, said “As a person, Luis is the nicest guy you’ll ever meet. He’s a real class act, a real good guy all around. [He’s] always happy, always optimistic.”

According to Hansen, “Luis is definitely the kind of person who would, if you’re sitting alone in the lunchroom or at the dining hall . . . come sit with you and talk with you.”

Additionally, Hansen said that Luis is always willing to give advice and look out for his fellow teammates.

Freshman running back Kyle Graham also expressed admiration for Guarita’s coolness under pressure.

“He can make it seem like he’s super calm even if something might be making him nervous,” Graham said.

According to Graham, before Guarita went in for the game-winning field goal against St. Cloud, he was super calm and had a smile on his face.

“He was just having a good time with the boys on the sideline,” Graham said.

According to coach Olszewski, it’s Guarita’s willingness to be wholly himself that wins him admiration from his teammates.

“He’s got a wonderful personality,” Olszewski said. “He’s just very well-liked by his teammates because he’s just so easygoing. I think his teammates embrace him just because Luis is Luis. He’s unique in his own way, and he doesn’t compromise that for anybody.”

Guarita said his main sources of motivation are being able to inspire others, go after his dreams and do what makes him happy.

He said, however, that his accomplishments would not have been made possible without the support of his teammates, coaches and friends.

“Shoutout to everybody,” he said. “Shoutout to the snapper, the holder—people blocking the kicks. If it wasn’t for them none of it would have been possible. And also shoutout to the coaches.”

Guarita said he’s thankful that Coach Olszewski took a chance on him and hopes the team keeps winning their games so they can make it to the playoffs.

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