The Tech Lunch Pail is excited to announce the launch of the new TLP Insider subscription. Sign up for an account and get the best news, inside scoops, and analysis on the Hokies! Learn more

Caleb Henson Wins National Title as Four Hokies Earn All-American Honors at 2024 NCAA Wrestling Championships

Caleb Henson 1 VT Cornell 2023 From VT
Photo Credit: Virginia Tech Athletics

Virginia Tech Wrestling's season hasn't gone as hoped after they were in the top 5 preseason, but the Hokies still qualified all 10 starters for the 2024 NCAA Championships with the hopes of finishing the season well. That proved to largely be the case with Mekhi Lewis' club as Virginia Tech's only wrestler to win a national title growing by one to include Caleb Henson.

Virginia Tech's 149 star Caleb Henson became the second national champion in Virginia Tech Wrestling history while Mekhi Lewis and Bryce Andonian earned their fourth and third All-American honors respectively in their final NCAAs, plus TJ Stewart earned All-American honors in his first NCAAs. That success helped the Hokies earn a 7th place finish in the team standings in what was a very compact battle between 2nd and 9th with Cornell coming in 2nd with 72.5 points, Nebraska coming in 9th with 60.5 points, and the Hokies finishing with 64 points in seventh.

Henson was obviously the biggest star of the weekend for the Hokies dominating South Dakota State's Alek Martin 18-3 for a tech fall in the first round before cruising past Oklahoma State's Jordan Williams in the second round 7-2. Henson then had no issues in the quarterfinals beating West Virginia's Ty Watters 8-3 to set up a semifinal showdown with top seed Ridge Lovett of Nebraska, who had beaten Henson in Las Vegas earlier this year.

This time, Henson got his revenge with a dramatic 1-0 victory over Lovett to become the fourth national finalist in program history along with Mekhi Lewis, Devin Carter, and Jared Haught. Most of those previous title bouts were tight duals, but Henson was dominant against Michigan's Austin Gomez, nearly pinning Gomez twice on his way to a 15-7 major decision victory to become Virginia Tech's first national champion.

The scenes afterward seemed out of a movie with his family in tears celebrating Henson, the Georgia native hugging his coaches after hugging his family, and then his teammates mobbing him in jubilation just as he was about to start his post-match interview with ESPN.

Henson now has joined an exclusive club with Lewis as the only Hokie wrestlers to win national champions with the Georgia native having the chance now to chase Lewis' accomplishments in pursuit of becoming the greatest wrestler in VT history. He's definitely got a reasonable chance at doing that having won a national title, an ACC title in 2023, and earning All-American honors each of his first two seasons.

Meanwhile, the legendary Mekhi Lewis finished out his career well becoming the first four-time All-American in program history on his way to a fourth place finish. Lewis got a brutal draw for a one seed with now four-time champion Carter Starocci getting the nine seed instead of a top three spot purely because he injury defaulted out of the Big 10 Championship. Regardless, Lewis wrestled his way back to fourth while also getting a first round major decision to give the Hokies a bonus point.

Bryce Andonian also shined in his final NCAAs on his way to becoming a three-time All-American and finishing 6th, which came after getting the 12 seed following an injury-riddled season. Andonian had the top seed Levi Haines of Penn State on the ropes in the semifinals but gave up a very late takedown to force the match to sudden victory where Haines got a pin to send Andonian to the consolation bracket. Regardless, Andonian's electric style gave opponents' issues to the end and helped him earn his third All-American honors.

TJ Stewart impressed in his NCAA Championship debut getting a pin within the first minute of his opening match before making a deep run to the quarterfinals where he was on the brink of a semifinal berth, but gave up a late takedown that cost him. However, Stewart wrestled his way back to All-American honors on his way to finishing 7th, picking up a 20-4 tech fall victory in the 7th place match over Navy's David Key to give the Hokies more bonus points.

Andy Smith and Hunter Catka didn't earn All-American honors but Tech's 197 and heavyweight wrestlers had strong NCAAs, outperforming their seeds in a big way.

Smith pulled off a massive upset in the opening round beating 7 seed Zack Glazier in sudden victory. Smith crashed out of the main bracket in the next round, but won a pair of consolation matches to give the Hokies a couple more points. While he came up just short of All-American honors, this was an encouraging NCAA performance for the Christiansburg, VA native.

Meanwhile, Catka got beat in the first round, but then got to work in the consolation bracket with three-straight victories including a pair of major decisions to give the Hokies bonus points. While Catka did come up just short of All-American honors, his performance was encouraging for what he can do in the future.

Cooper Flynn's NCAA debut didn't go as hoped as he won his first round matchup, but then crashed out in the second round before the 11 seed got a brutal draw of 5 seed Jore Volk of Wyoming in the consolation bracket and came up short. Sam Latona didn't have a great NCAAs getting upset in the first round, but he fought back with a pair of consolation bracket victories before losing in sudden victory to Tyler Wells of Minnesota.

Tom Crook pulled off a first round upset against West Virginia's Jordan Titus, but crashed out against NC State's Ryan Jack in the second round. Crook did pick up a win in the consolation bracket but wasn't able to get beyond that. Connor Brady had the shortest NCAA Wrestling Championships for the Hokies losing his first round match and his consolation bracket match.

While a seventh place finish isn't what the Hokies were likely hoping for going into the season, this was still a pretty good NCAAs for Virginia Tech headlined by Caleb Henson's dominant weekend on his way to becoming the Hokies' second national champion. Mekhi Lewis and Bryce Andonian ended their careers well with All-American honors, while TJ Stewart has made it clear that he is going to be a star for years to come in Blacksburg.

Overall, the future is bright with Henson and Stewart ready to lead the Hokies' next wrestling generation to greater heights.

You must login in order to comment on this post.
Loading Indicator