Inside HOKIE SPORTS | Vol. 11 No. 5 | May 2019

14 Inside Hokie Sports Athletes celebrate the winning of national championships in any number of ways, but those familiar with wrestlers know that they party in a little more unorthodox manner. After keeping close scrutiny on their weight for the better part of a year, they immediately sprint to the nearest buffet line for post-match shenanigans. Mekhi Lewis wasn’t any different. “I had McDonald’s,” he said. He also mixed in a little Kentucky Fried Chicken, IHOP and Chinese food over a two-week span, as part of the spoils of victory. For sure, he savored every bit of his caloric indulgence. And he should. The redshirt freshman from Bound Brook, New Jersey certainly deserved it after he won the national championship in the 165-pound weight class at the NCAA Wrestling Championships held in Pittsburgh in late March, becoming Virginia Tech’s first wrestling national champion. He dominated two-time defending national champion Vincenzo Joseph of Penn State, winning 7-1. The victory capped an overpowering three-day span for Lewis, who entered the tournament as the No. 8 seed. On his march to the crown, 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, and he became just the fourth ACC wrestler ever to win the championship event’s Most Outstanding Wrestler award. “No, because I’ve been training for it,” Lewis said when asked if he was surprised at his performance. “I was prepared. I felt it was just, like, me trying to figure out things in my head mentally. Physically, I thought I was there. The only thing that was going to hold me back was the mental part of it. That’s what helped a lot, just people telling me that I could wrestle and be a national champ this year. I went to nationals thinking that I would be able to wrestle as good as I possibly can. “It didn’t surprise me or my coaches or my family, or just the people around me, like my teammates who watch me wrestle every day or hang out around me. I felt like it was people on the outside who don’t know me or don’t see me every single day. I wasn’t really surprised. I feel like the people who are around me weren’t really surprised. It was just the outside people who were.” During the championship match, Lewis nearly pinned Joseph in the second period, grabbing a 4-0 lead. Joseph recorded an escape and nearly took down Lewis toward the end of the period, but Lewis’ incredible athleticism enabled him to avoid the takedown, as the second period ended. Lewis escaped from Joseph to start the third period and took a 5-1 lead. At that point, he started thinking, “I might actually do this. I might actually accomplish one of my goals I had set when I came here.” In the final minute, he took down Joseph again to take a commanding 7-1 lead and all but seal the match. “When I was on top of him after I got the final takedown, I remember shaking my head and thinking to myself, ‘I actually did it. I’m actually going to do it,’” Lewis said. “It was just surreal.” As the seconds ticked down, Lewis’ parents, sitting matside, started jumping up and down, realizing what was taking place. At the match’s conclusion, Lewis immediately jumped into assistant coach Jared Frayer’s arms—he and Frayer have developed a close bond during his time at Tech. He also hugged head coach Tony Robie and assistant Devin Carter and then went and jumped into his parents’ arms.