Inside HOKIE SPORTS | Vol. 15 No. 3 | December 2022

16 Inside Hokie Sports Over the better part of the last decade, Virginia Tech wrestling has gradually become one of the top programs in the country. Led by three-time ACC Coach of the Year Tony Robie, the Hokies have racked up four conference titles and finished in the top 11 at the NCAA tournament four times in the past five years. The success under Robie wasn’t built overnight. It took time for the program to earn and maintain its elite status. “[It’s been a] long process for sure,” Robie recalled. “A lot more people involved than just me, for sure. It’s been a somewhat gradual climb. We’ve been pretty consistent with where we’ve been the last several years. Virginia Tech’s rise to one of best programs in the nation has been fueled by success at the individual level, touting 17 All-Americans over the last five seasons — the most notable being Mekhi Lewis’ national championship in 2019. Tech is the only ACC school and one of just four schools nationally to have at least three All-Americans in each of the last nine seasons. “I think the next step in the future for us is to try to break through to the next level. We’re kind of establishing ourselves in that six to 10 or four to 10 range [in the rankings]. We’ve been as high as four, as low as 11. For us, we want to get closer to that top group of teams. That’s what we’re trying to accomplish.” The reason the Hokies have been able to sustain success at the highest level can be traced back to the type of people who have been brought into the program, whether it be coaches or student-athletes. “I think it’s just the people that you have and the continuity that you have in the organization,” Robie said. “I feel great about the people that we have in our program from our coaching staff [and] our support staff, to our senior and older guys and the leadership we get from them. Once it’s in place, it’s about maintaining it. I think the culture part has been built and it’s about continuing to bring in the kind of guys who fit our program with our philosophies.” Much of the responsibility to maintain that winning-culture falls on the shoulders of upperclassmen in the program. It’s a duty that veterans of the program take pride in carrying on. “I feel like I’m a leader on this team, and it’s really cool because I feel like I’m a big part of the culture and trying to maintain that and keep it going,” redshirt junior Sam Latona said. “I think one of the biggest things is just being able to talk and communicate with guys and being close with the young guys and being able to pass [the culture] down to them. Latona, a two-time All-American and 2021 ACC Freshman of the Year, enters his fourth year in Blacksburg eager to teach the traditions of the program to the underclassmen on the team. PRIMED to COMPETE at the highest level By Jack Brizendine Program established as national contender SAM LATONA CALEB HENSON TONY ROBIE VIRGINIA TECH WRESTLING HEAD COACH