Virginia Tech Sends Three to Quarterfinals at NCAAs

Virginia Tech will have three wrestlers in the quarterfinals when competition resumes Friday morning at the NCAA Wrestling Championships. Mekhi Lewis, Zack Zavatsky and Tom Sleigh all won their round of 16 matches on Thursday night to advance to the next round.

The Hokies had six total wrestlers still alive in the championship bracket when session two began. All of them wrestled close matches, but only half were able to come away with a victory on the biggest stage of the season.

Lewis picked up the first win of the round for Tech, defeating Army’s Cael McCormick by a 4-1 decision. Lewis scored a takedown in the first period and an escape in the second. He started the third on top and rode out the period to earn the riding time point and the victory.

Though there wasn’t as much offense as there usually is in Lewis’ matches, he still got the job done to advance to the next round. He’s got a tall task ahead of him as he’ll face one-seed Alex Marinelli in the quarterfinals. Marinelli is undefeated on the season, but the two wrestlers have some history. Lewis beat Marinelli last summer at the World Team Trials. Although that was in a freestyle competition, it should give Lewis an idea of what to expect on Friday.

Zavatsky continued his run at 184 pounds, winning a 9-7 decision over Michigan State’s Cameron Caffey. Caffey scored the first takedown of the match in the first period, but Zavatsky was able to come back. Caffey kept it close the entire time, but Zavatsky gutted out a big win to advance to the quarterfinals. He’ll face Northern Iowa’s Drew Foster on Friday morning, a familiar face. Foster and Zavatsky have wrestled twice this season, with Foster winning both matches.

Zavatsky has been on a tear recently, and he’ll have to continue wrestling at his best ability if he hopes to advance further in the bracket.

The third of Tech’s quarterfinalists, Sleigh earned a tough 9-8 decision over Virginia’s Jay Aiello. It was the third meeting between the two this year after splitting matches at the Cliff Keen Invitational and the Virginia Duals.

Sleigh led going into the third period, but Aiello scored three takedowns to take the lead and put the pressure on him. With Aiello leading 8-7 and time ticking down, Sleigh escaped to tie the match. He escaped just in time, as his 1:03 of riding time earned him the win over the UVA 197-pounder.

The wrestlers in the championship bracket weren’t the only ones to see success in the second session. Mitch Moore faced Duke’s Josh Finesilver in the first round of the consolation bracket. Moore had pinned Finesilver in 54 seconds during the regular season, and this time took just a little bit longer.

Moore pinned Finesilver in 1:40 to earn a win and move on to the next round, where he’ll face Wyoming’s Sam Turner.

B.C. LaPrade kept the bonus points coming in the consolation bracket, winning a 12-4 major decision over Duke’s Ben Anderson. LaPrade led 3-2 going into the third period, but used a takedown followed by four near fall points to extend his lead. He got another takedown after that, plus the riding time point to finish off the match.

While the Hokies saw some success on Thursday night, there were some tough losses. Korbin Myers suffered a 7-2 loss at the hands of three-seed Nick Suriano. He also appeared to injure his knee in the match, but continued to wrestle. He’ll face Gary joint of Fresno State in the consolation bracket tomorrow.

Ryan Blees was coming off an upset over the nine-seed in the 149 weight class, but he couldn’t continue that magic for another round. Blees took Iowa’s Pat Lugo to two sudden victory overtime periods. He was in on a shot, but Lugo turned it on him to score the winning takedown and knock Blees into the wrestlebacks.

David McFadden suffered a heartbreaking loss as well, losing 5-3 in sudden victory overtime to Army’s Ben Harvey. McFadden led 3-2 towards the end of the third period, but a hands to the face penalty gave Harvey the tying point. Harvey would score a takedown in overtime to stun McFadden and end his championship hopes.

Hokies heavyweight Billy Miller was on the losing end of a match as well, dropping his consolation match to Appalachian State’s Cary Miller. The match was tied late in the third period, but Cary Miller got a takedown with 30 seconds left to take the lead. The loss knocks Miller out of the tournament, and brings his collegiate career to an end.

Virginia Tech is still looking strong in the team score, currently tied with Nebraska for ninth with 16 team points. Wrestling will resume tomorrow morning with the three quarterfinalists looking to advance to the semis while the rest of the team will keep their All-American hopes alive in the wrestlebacks.

Session Three begins tomorrow morning at 11 a.m. Make sure to keep up with Tech Lunch Pail for updates throughout the day.

Photo Credit: Virginia Tech Athletics

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