photo courtesy of Richard Immel
This morning Virginia Tech wrestling announced on social media that 2019 NCAA champion Mekhi Lewis would be taking an Olympic redshirt during the 2019-20 season. Lewis stunned the crowd in Pittsburgh as he upset top-seeded, undefeated Alex Marinelli (Iowa) in the NCAA quarterfinals. Next, he knocked off Evan Wick (Wisconsin) in the semi’s and then captured his title by dominating two-time national champion Vincenzo Joseph (Penn State) on the raised mat. The win made Lewis the first NCAA champion in Virginia Tech’s history. Last summer, Lewis won a Junior World Championship at 74 kg in freestyle, despite only having experienced a handful of freestyle tournaments before that one. Since the Olympics do not have a 70 or 79 kg weight class, Mekhi will compete at 74 kilos.
With the Olympic Trials set for April 4th and 5th from State College, Pennsylvania, this is a wise decision if an athlete is looking to maximize their chance to make the 2020 Olympic team. The NCAA Tournament is only two weeks before this Trials which could present a problem to wrestling competing in both events. It doesn’t seem to make sense getting beat down by the grind of the NCAA season with such a short time before the Trials.
Hokies Head Coach Tony Robie stated that Mekhi will continue to train at Virginia Tech’s Southeast Regional Training Center in preparation for the Olympic Trials. Lewis’ next international competition will be October 10-13th in Russia at the Dmitry Korkin International. He’ll later attempt to qualify for the Trial at the Bill Farrell Memorial in November.
Lewis is now the second returning NCAA champion who has publicly announced that he will use an Olympic redshirt for the 2019-20 season, with Yianni Diakomihalis (Cornell) being the other.