3x NCAA All-American Mekhi Lewis (photo courtesy of Tony Rotundo; WrestlersAreWarriors.com)
The Champ Is Back!
Mekhi Lewis, 2019 NCAA Champion and three-time All-American, announced that he will utilize his final year of eligibility and will return to the Hokies.
Lewis has been a lynchpin in the success of the Hokies since he came to Blacksburg. After a stellar 28-2 redshirt campaign in 2018--his only two losses were to Chance Marstellar at the Southern Scuffle--Lewis added a Junior World Championship over the summer. There were high expectations for Lewis from the staff and the Hokie faithful, but he flew under the radar for many nationally. After an early season dual loss to Connor Flynn of Mizzou and a tight 2-0 loss to All-American Isaiah White of Nebraska at the CKLV, Lewis reeled off 21 straight wins--including an incredible NCAA run, to stand atop the podium in Pittsburgh. He earned OW honors at the ACC Championships and the NCAA Championships where he beat the #1 seed Alex Marinelli, #4 seed Evan Wick and #2 seed Vincenzo Joseph to capture his first NCAA title. This was also the first individual title for the Hokies.
After an Olympic Redshirt in the 2019-2020 season, Lewis started the 2020-2021 season 8-0 before suffering a significant injury against Jake Wentzel in the Pitt dual. Lewis gritted his way to two wins at the NCAA tournament before ultimately medically defaulting. He entered the 2021-2022 season looking to make a statement; he started the season on a 19-0 run before a sudden victory loss to Hayden Hidlay in the dual against NC State. He avenged this loss in the ACC semifinals, then beat Clay Lautt in the finals to win his second ACC title. He put together another phenomenal run in Detroit to make his second appearance in the NCAA finals. In one of the best matches of the tournament, Lewis dropped a heartbreaker to Carter Starocci in TB1.
Lewis capped this season with another finish on the podium in Tulsa; while it wasn't his best finish, the grit he showed to get to that step is impressive. He suffered a knee injury in the Stanford dual in late December that held him out of action for several weeks. While still fighting through this nagging injury, he suffered another injury to his other leg while en route to winning the ACC Championship. While watching his run in Tulsa, it was evident that Mekhi was not at full strength, but that he was going to leave everything he had on the mat. He won his first three matches--including a chippy match against Jackson Turley where he tweaked his knee--and then beat a scrappy Nelson Brands in the quarterfinals with a dislocated finger. This set up a rematch of the CKLV finals where Mikey Labriola was again able to come out on top in TB1 to keep Lewis from making his third NCAA final. Lewis topped Dustin Plott to make the 3rd place match where he lost again in TB1 to Chris Foca to finish in 4th place.
Lewis will return to a Hokie squad that finished in 9th place in Tulsa. They lose only one starter, Hunter Bolen, and return All-Americans Eddie Ventresca, Sam Latona, Caleb Henson, and Bryce Andonian. The Hokies will be a force to be reckoned with in 2023-2024 and will be in the hunt for a team trophy.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention Mekhi's off-the-mat contributions. I've had the privilege of being behind the scenes and seeing how big of an impact Lewis has made both on his teammates and on the community around him. He has capitalized on several NIL opportunities, and with this, he has made a point to give back to his community. Last season he partnered with the Center for Great Expectations in his hometown in New Jersey, donating $8,000 and receiving partner donations for a total of $21,000 (VT Magazine). This season he is splitting his donations between NJ Toy Drive and Micah's Backpack; a Blacksburg organization.
Another year in Blacksburg means one more year to add to the legacy that Mekhi has built both on and off the mat. I, for one, am looking forward to seeing what he still has up his sleeve.