Inside HOKIE SPORTS | Vol. 11 No. 6 | June 2019

One may find this hard to believe, but back in the day, Mekhi Lewis used to lose wrestling matches with regularity. Of course, in those days, he often took on the same opponent, one who weighed more and was older— his brother. “I used to always lose,” Lewis said. “But I would always take him on.” That bulldog mentality served him well in his redshirt freshman campaign, as the Virginia Tech wrestler closed the season by winning the national title in his 165-pound weight class. His dominating 7-1 victory over two-time defending national champion Vincenzo Joseph of Penn State enabled him to become the wrestling program’s first national champion, and he subsequently earned the championship event’s Most Outstanding Wrestler award, becoming just the fourth ACC wrestler ever to win that. As a result of all that, Lewis is Inside Hokie Sports’ 2018-19 Athlete of the Year. He became just the third Tech wrestler (Devin Carter and Jared Haught) to be named the magazine’s Athlete of the Year since the publication started doing this in 1995. The complete list of winners includes Cornell Brown (football), Jim Druckenmiller (football), Katie Ollendick (women’s track and field), Corey Moore (football), André Davis (football), Lee Suggs (football), Bryant Matthews (men’s basketball), Kevin Jones (football), Queen Harrison (women’s track and field), Dorotea Habazin (women’s track and field), Marcel Lomnicky (men’s track and field), Spyridon Jullien (men’s track and field), Angela Tincher (softball), Alexander Ziegler (men’s track and field), Erick Green (men’s basketball), Carter (wrestling), Irena Sediva (women’s track and field), Tommy Curtin (men’s track and field), Hanna Green (women’s track and field) and Haught (wrestling). Lewis beat out strong crop of athletes for this recognition, including Rachel Pocratsky (women’s track and field), Amanda Hollandsworth (women’s golf), Kerry Blackshear Jr. (men’s basketball), Taylor Emery (women’s basketball) and Emma Strouth (softball). Lewis stormed through the NCAA Championships to win the national crown in his weight class. He entered the field as the No. 8 seed, and on his march, he beat the No. 1 seed (Iowa’s Alex Marinelli), the No. 4 seed (Wisconsin’s Evan Wick) and Joseph, the No. 2 seed. He wasn’t taken down a single time. Lewis, who also won the ACC title at 165 pounds, concluded his redshirt freshman season with a 28-2 record. His only losses came to Missouri’s Connor Flynn on Nov. 16 and Nebraska’s Isaiah White in the finals of the Cliff Keen Invitational in Las Vegas on Dec. 1. Lewis said he hasn’t celebrated that much since that late March night when he beat Joseph, and he already has started preparations for 2019- 20. Rest assured, though, he understands the implications of what he accomplished this past season. “I’m living the good life right now,” he said. • The Hokies finished 11th at the NCAA Championships, a performance that marked their eighth consecutive top- 11 finish. They went 9-5 during the regular season, including a 3-2 mark in the ACC. • In addition to Lewis, two other wrestlers earned All-America honors – David McFadden at 174 pounds and Zack Zavatsky at 184. McFadden placed fifth in his weight class, while Zavatsky came in eighth. McFadden went 24-4 this past season, while Zavatsky concluded his final campaign with a 27-6 record. • Head coach Tony Robie was named the ACC Coach of the Year, continuing a streak in which the program has garnered six of the past seven conference Coach of the Year awards. • Tech also brought home two other top ACC awards, with Lewis being named the ACC Wrestler of the Year and Mitch Moore being tabbed the league’s Freshman of the Year. Moore went 18-9 this past season and finished second at 141 pounds at the ACC Championships. WRESTLING SEASON HIGHLIGHTS 16 Inside Hokie Sports MEKHI LEWIS R-Fr.; Bound Brook, New Jersey WRESTLING