Virginia Tech Wrestling will have a pair of wrestlers wrestling tonight for a spot in the finals of their respective weight classes at the 2022 NCAA Wrestling Championships in Detroit. While one Hokie was expected to be there, the other has been a major surprise going on a run of upsets with his biggest performance yet earlier today.
Mekhi Lewis and Bryce Andonian have reached the finals at 174 and 149 respectively after winning their quarterfinal matchups earlier today while Sam Latona and Korbin Myers came up short and fall into the consolation bracket. The victories for Lewis and Andonian secured their All-American spots while Latona and Myers are still alive to earn All-American honors through the consolation bracket.
Bryce Andonian has emerged as one of the stars of this year's NCAA Wrestling Championships similar to Mekhi Lewis back in 2019 as the Hokies' rising star at 149 started out from the 11 seed with a win over 22 seed Max Brignola of Lehigh 9-7. He followed that with his first upset of the even beating 6 seed and former All-American Jonathan Miller of Appalachian State 16-11.
That set the stage for Andonian to get his shot at 3 seed Austin Gomez of Wisconsin who was the favorite on paper going in. However, Andonian's unique style, momentum, and the fact that he is better than the 11 seed made him the type of wrestler who could go on a deep run and surprise everyone.
That continued against Gomez with Andonian putting together a tremendous performance that gave him a lead late in the third period before landing the pin just before the end of the match to make his biggest statement yet.
The PIN that made BA an NCAA ALL-AMERICAN 🇺🇸— Virginia Tech Wrestling (@HokiesWrestling) March 18, 2022
Let's Go #Hokies #ALLINALLTHETIME🦃 pic.twitter.com/E2GrzQby2d
With the win, Andonian is on to the semifinals where many would have expected him to face another match against N.C. State's Tariq Wilson. Instead, the Wolfpack's 2 seed was upset by the 10 seed Ridge Lovett of Nebraska who is going on his own impressive run and got a fall on Wilson to reach the semifinals.
For both wrestlers, this match presents a major opportunity with Andonian having the unique style to confuse and pull off a victory to get himself to the final and truly put himself in the hunt to follow Mekhi Lewis's path to earning Most Outstanding Wrestler honors for this year's event.
The winner of Andonian versus Lovett will face the winner of #1 overall seed Yianni Diakomihalis of Cornell against 4 seed Sammy Sasso of Ohio State for the national championship at 149.
Meanwhile, Mekhi Lewis has done exactly what you would expect for the 2019 national champion at 165 wrestling in his first NCAA Wrestling Championships since his debut in 2019.
Lewis, who entered as the 2 seed, was dominant on the first day with a 15-7 major decision victory over 31 seed Dennis Robin of West Virginia followed by a 8-5 victory over 18 seed Lance Runyon of Northern Iowa.
With those wins, Lewis faced off against a familiar opponent in 10 seed Clay Lautt of North Carolina. Just like their match in the ACC Championship, Lewis took care of business in comfortable fashion with a 4-2 victory over Lautt to earn his second All-American honor in two career NCAA Championships.
Lewis will face 3 seed Logan Massa of Michigan in the semifinals on a night that is defined by the ACC versus the Big 10 at 174 with #1 seed Carter Starocci of Penn State facing Lewis' top ACC rival and 4 seed Hayden Hidlay of N.C. State in the other semifinal. While Lewis may be the 2 seed, there's no doubt that Lewis is a top favorite to win a second national title and do at a different weight class.
24 seed Sam Latona's NCAA turnaround was impressive yesterday as he upset 9 seed Devin Schroeder of Purdue 4-1 in his opening match before beating 25 seed Caleb Smith of Appalachian State in the round of 16 in a matchup of schools that pulled upsets.
Latona's main bracket run came to an end today though as he suffered a fall to the top seed Nick Suriano of Michigan in the first period. He still has a great chance to earn All-American honors through the consolation bracket though he'll face a tough matchup against 6 seed Eric Barnett of Wisconsin who has fought back to keep his All-American hopes alive after suffering an early upset with the winner locking those honors up.
4 seed Korbin Myers started strong yesterday with a dominant 12-0 major decision victory against 29 seed Jake Gliva of Minnesota. His second round match saw an unfortunate end for his opponent, 13 seed Brock Hudkins of Indiana, who had to withdraw after suffering an injury during the match.
However, today did not go as well for Myers who suffered a 9-0 major decision loss to 5 seed Austin DeSanto of Iowa to fall into the consolation bracket. Myers is still only a win away from All-American honors in his final season and will face 26 seed Matt Ramos of Purdue who has been a surprise at 133 in this year's tournament.
Outside of those four wrestlers, other Hokies have tried to wrestle back through the consolation after falling out of the main bracket in either the first or second round but all four have crashed out.
Tenth-seeded heavyweight Nathan Traxler opened his NCAA Championships with a thrilling sudden victory win against UVA's Quinn Miller. He came up short though against 7 seed Mason Parris of Michigan.
However, Traxler bounced back in the consolation bracket in his first match with a win over Lock Haven's 25 seed Isaac Reid 6-5 before coming up short against 18 seed Lewis Fernandes of Cornell 10-4.
In what may be his final NCAA Championships after walking at Senior Day earlier this season, Hunter Bolen opened as the 15 seed at 184 with a 6-3 decision over Abe Assad before losing a 9-1 major decision to 2 seed Aaron Brooks of Penn State. Bolen's NCAAs came to a quick end after with a 4-2 loss to 17 seed Jeremiah Kent of Missouri in his only consolation match that many wonder if it is his last collegiate match.
28 seed Collin Gerardi's NCAA Championships didn't go well with a 5-1 loss to 141's 5 seed Andrew Alirez of Northern Colorado followed by a 7-1 decision loss to 21 seed Dylan Droegemueller of North Dakota State.
At 157, 28 seed Connor Brady opened with a tough 3-2 loss to Quincy Monday of Princeton, but he followed that with a 3-2 decision victory against 21 seed Chase Saldate of Michigan State. Brady's tournament ended in a heartbreaker though with a sudden victory loss to 22 seed Dazjon Casto of The Citadel.
Overall, Virginia Tech has exceeded expectations based on seedings with 2 All-Americans and semifinalists and the chance to gain 2 more in the semifinals. Tech's strong performances from some of their top stars has also helped the Hokies climb up the team rankings with Tech seventh through three sessions with a great chance at finishing in the top 10 and potentially higher.