Virginia Tech didn’t get the result it wanted, but the Hokies still had a strong showing at the Cliff Keen Invitational this weekend in Las Vegas. Three wrestlers placed for Tech, who finished tied for 11th
in the team score with 64.5 points.
Going into this weekend’s tournament, Tech had an individual champion each of the past three seasons. The nation’s toughest in-season tournament proved more challenging this year, and the Hokies were unable to keep that streak going.
Redshirt freshman Mekhi Lewis put in the best performance of the weekend for the No. 13 Hokies, making it to the finals in the 165-pound weight class. The seventh-seeded Lewis picked up a couple of upsets, winning against second-seeded Branson Ashworth of Wyoming and third-seeded Bryce Steiert of Northern Iowa. Both of those wins show the potential Lewis has as a freshman, as Ashworth and Steiert are each ranked in the Top 10 of Intermat’s Division I rankings.
Lewis faced fourth-seeded Isaiah White of Nebraska in the finals, dropping the match 2-0 and ending Tech’s chances at a fourth-straight individual title. Lewis didn’t allow anything from White in the first period, but a quick escape in the second would be the difference maker as White went on to claim the 165-pound title.
Other wrestlers to place for Tech were senior Zack Zavatsky, who placed fourth in the 184-pound weight class, and Tom Sleigh, who placed seventh in the 197-pound weight class.
Both wrestlers started the weekend out well. Zavatsky picked up three wins before losing to Drew Foster of Northern Iowa in the quarterfinals. Once in the consolation bracket, ZZ won three straight matches to make it to the third place bout. He defeated seeded wrestlers such as Nino Bonaccorsi of Pitt and Maxwell Dean of Cornell.
Zavatsky’s run would come to an end when he met Foster again in the consolation finals. Foster was able to take control of the match for a 9-5 decision.
Sleigh made it to the quarterfinals of the 197-pound weight class before losing to Clarion’s Greg Bulsak. The senior transfer picked up a win over Northwestern’s Zack Chakonis in a rematch of their Nov. 18 dual. Sleigh was knocked into the seventh-place match after dropping a match 9-1 against Virginia’s Jay Aiello in the consolation bracket.
Korbin Myers put in a solid performance for the Hokies as well, making it to the quarterfinals of the 133-pound weight class. Myers won his first match by tech fall before winning a 4-3 decision over Illinois’ Dylan Duncan. He was knocked out in the quarters by first-seeded Nick Suriano of Rutgers.
With the completion of the tournament, the Hokies have gotten through what could be the toughest stretch of their season. The team had a pair of Top-25 duals to open the season before the Cliff Keen Invitational.
Tech will return home on Friday Dec. 7 to host Princeton in a dual before traveling to West Virginia on Dec. 19.
Photo Credit: Dave Knachel/Virginia Tech Athletics