Mekhi Lewis, the redshirt freshman from Bound Brook, New Jersey, and 2018 Junior World Champion, entered the NCAA Tournament with a chip on his shoulder as he dominated virtually every match of the regular season. The stage, one of the biggest of his career, was PPG Paints Arena located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. There is no doubt that Lewis will associate it with a magical run that was capped off by an outstanding victory over two-time defending champion of Penn State, Vincenzo Joseph.
The first national champion in Virginia Tech wrestling history, Lewis brought a skillset to the table that not many can replicate as he used his combination of speed, flexibility, strength and quickness to outlast each and every opponent he faced, one being Iowa’s Alex Marinelli, the No. 1 ranked wrestler in the nation at 165 pounds. Lewis entered the tournament as an underdog labeled as the eighth best wrestler in his class, but these ranks would quickly vanish into thin air when he upset Marinelli in a 3–1 decision and put down Joseph 7–1.
Joseph found himself struggling to control the quickness and strength of Lewis as he was pulled into a cradle and rolled to his back awarding Lewis four points for a nearfall. This aforementioned cradle rocked the Nittany Lion to sleep as the Hokies boasted the first national champion in the history of their wrestling program while also leaving the tournament with three All-Americans: Lewis, David McFadden and Zack Zavatsky.
In response to a question concerning the magnitude of his victory for the Hokie wrestling program and the school in general, Lewis stated, “it means a lot because Virginia Tech wrestling has always been really good but hasn't had good finals so to have the first one, it means a lot to me.” He also earned recognition from one of the greatest wrestlers of all time, Jordan Burroughs over a Tweet saying, “that’s a baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaddddddd man! Congrats Mekhi Lewis! Jersey stand up!”
McFadden, the two-time All-American prior to this season, capped off a stellar season of proportion by placing fifth and finishing with a record of 6–2. The Hokie 174-pounder earned his spot on the podium following an extremely tight victory over No. 10 Mikey Labriola of Nebraska in a 4–3 decision while previously dropping a tough one early in the tournament to Army’s Ben Harvey. McFadden will look to next season to chase the success of his wrestling partner, Lewis, and take his game to the next level by hopefully bringing another national championship title back to Tech.
According to USA Wrestling, Virginia Tech head coach Tony Robie following the 2019 NCAA finals attributed some of Lewis’ accomplishments to his teammates.
“Dave (McFadden) is a part of Mekhi’s success, you know and I think having that rivalry between the two in the room when they wrestle, its really competitive and neither wants to lose so I think that there's something special between those guys. They’re teammates, they’re training partners, they are brothers … ”
Zavatsky, in his final season in a Hokie uniform, took home eighth place after exiting the tournament with a 3–3 record. Zavatsky struggled a bit to emerge victorious in the contests with which he was favored as he lost by a point in a brawl for seventh place against No. 26 Dakota Geer of Oklahoma State. Zavatsky entered the 2019 Division I tournament as the No. 3 ranked wrestler in the nation at 184 pounds, and secured his second NCAA All-American title as a result of an outstanding final season.
Overall, these three wrestlers left a mark on this program that cannot be replicated by any school, in the nation in addition to the bond they share with one another. Virginia Tech wrestling will look forward to next season to expand upon this success while Lewis and McFadden will also attempt to defend their spots on the throne.