2021 NCAA All-American Hunter Bolen (Photo/Tony Rotundo; WrestlersAreWarriors.com)
Virginia Tech Hokies
"I love the way this team has come together. They are taking all the steps to win a trophy this year" - Virginia Tech head coach Tony Robie
Head Coach Tony Robie has had the Hokies rolling at a high level since taking the reins of the program. The team earned the ACC Dual Team Championship last season, with a thrilling, last-second win by Sam Latona. This edged the Hokies past NC State to capture the dual crown, and introduced the world to the phenomenon of Rock Harrison. A veteran squad returns to Blacksburg this year with nine wrestlers ranked in the Intermat Preseason Rankings. Virginia Tech will look to improve on its 16th place team finish at NCAAs and try to dethrone the Wolfpack from atop the ACC podium. Coach Robie is optimistic about his lineup. "I feel great about where we are coming out of the preseason. The team culture is great, the work ethic has been high across the team. Everyone is healthy and happy, enjoying some normalcy this year. This is the first year we've had in a few years where we don't have a lot of youth in the lineup--we started 5 freshmen last year at the ACC Tournament. Now that they all have experience and know what to expect, they are in a position to do even better this season".
The biggest question mark going into the 2021 NCAA tournament for the Hokies was the health of Mekhi Lewis; he had a gritty performance to go 2-0 at the tournament before defaulting out. "Mekhi rehabbed well; he's healthy and working hard and is excited to get going this season." A healthy Mekhi Lewis leads a strong contingent of returning starters in Blacksburg, including 2021 All-Americans Sam Latona, Korbin Myers and Hunter Bolen. Bryce Andonian also looks to continue the momentum of winning a bronze medal at the Junior World Championships this offseason.
Former 125 starter Joey Prata transferred to Oklahoma. Past starters Stanley Smeltzer (197) and John Borst (285) graduated.
Nathan Traxler transferred to Blacksburg from Stanford for his last year of eligibility. Traxler is a Pac-12 Champion, four-time NCAA qualifier and was named Pac-12 Scholar-Athlete of the Year last season. Traxler, and his glorious head of hair, will immediately challenge for heavyweight supremacy in the ACC.
WRESTLER TO WATCH
"We have a pretty established lineup, so I don't think we have anyone that is really under the radar. We've seen a lot of great work in the offseason that is going to pay off this season". There are two battles going on for starting spots that may not be fully determined until later in the season. Colin Gerardi and Sam Hilegas are challenging for the spot at 141, while Dakota Howard and Andy Smith fight for the 197 spot. Coach Robie said a couple people have really stood out to him lately; "I'm really excited to see where Conor Brady is at-he's put in a lot of work and is in a really good spot. I'm also looking forward to seeing Sam Latona get after it. His work ethic is at a different level than anyone I think I've ever been around".
125: #9 Sam Latona NCAA 6th, ACC Champ, ACC Freshman of the Year
133: #5 Korbin Myers NCAA 4th, ACC Champ, ACC MOW
141: #32 Sam Hillegas /Colin Gerardi 2020 NCAA Qualifier,
149: #8 Bryce Andonian 2x NCAA Qualifier 2x ACC Runner-up, Junior World Bronze
157: #31 Conor Brady NCAA Qualifier
165: Clayton Ulrey
174: #5 Mekhi Lewis 2019 NCAA Champ, ACC Champ, Jr. World Champ
184: #10 Hunter Bolen 2021 NCAA 7th, 2020 NWCA 1st Team AA, ACC Champ
197: #31 Andy Smith
or Dakota Howard NCAA Qualifier, ACC 3rd place
285: #15 Nathan Traxler 4x NCAA Qualifier, Pac-12 Champion (Stanford)