When thinking about Virginia Tech Wrestling, the obvious faces of the program come to mind with David McFadden, Hunter Bolen and Mekhi Lewis. However, the future of the program could rest in the hands of freshman Bryce Andonian.
“From a talent standpoint [Andonian] is incredibly gifted; aside from Mekhi [Lewis], he’s the best athlete on our team,” said Tony Robie, head coach. “He’s exciting to watch, he can score a ton of points, but that’s just one piece of the puzzle. You have to be the whole package. If Bryce can get to where he’s the full package all of the time, I think the sky is the limit.”
Andonian attended St. Edward High School in Kirtland, OH, which is known for having one of the best wrestling programs in the nation. It has produced five NCAA champions and has 37 Ohio state championships since 1978. Andonian earned two state titles of his own during high school and finished his career there ranked 20th in the nation in the 2019 recruiting class.
“Growing up, St. Edward High School was known for having state champions, and I always looked up to that since I started wrestling when I was about four years old,” Andonian said. “It was always just a dream to be the best version of myself, so going into high school, my goal was to be a four-time state champ, but things happen, and it was good to see that hard work paid off for me at a young age.”
Coming to Blacksburg may have seemed like a surprising decision for a talented wrestler growing up in the middle of Big Ten country. Andonian lived within just a few hours of perennial contenders Ohio State and Penn State, but decided to go another way and ended up in Southwest Virginia.
“I’ve been blessed enough to look at other schools, but when I came here, I felt comfortable, you know how they say, ‘This is Home,’” Andonian said. “When I came here, I felt that the coaches were great, they wanted you to be the best version of yourself and care about you as a person.”
Entering his freshman year in Blacksburg, Andonian was recovering from a hip surgery. He wasn’t like many other wrestlers who wanted to take a year off and redshirt to work on their craft. He wanted to wrestle immediately. This made it hard for him when he had to sit out during the early training for the season, watching his team work while all he could do was recover.
This article is sponsored by The Southeast Regional Training Center (SERTC). The SERTC is creating Olympic wrestling opportunities! Assist us in attracting the best recruits in the nation! Your support and contributions will help bring more OLYMPIC HOPEFUL training partners and mentors to Blacksburg, Virginia. Click here to learn more and to donate today!
“It made me so hungry. It was torture to sit on the treadmill or do therapy while watching these guys wrestle because I had trained my whole life to get to Virginia Tech and now, I had to wait,” Andonian said. “I have just always wanted to go right away. I don’t want to say I don’t have fears, but when it came to starting right away, I wanted to do it.”
Robie and the staff knew that Andonian had a bright future in Blacksburg. However, he wasn’t given the opportunity to start immediately at 149 lbs. He lost the wrestle-off in the intra-squad meet before the season started to Brent Moore and didn’t get his shot to begin his freshman year.
“We were trying to figure things out for our lineup, and we thought that Brent Moore could man the weight for us at 149 this year, but it became clear that wasn’t the case,” Robie said. “Bryce was on board 100 percent with wrestling and he wanted to be in there and wanted to be the guy.”
However, after a month between dual meets after the Hokies’ historic victory over Ohio State, Andonian received his first shot against Chattanooga. He earned his first dual meet win over Tanner Smith and started his career in Blacksburg on the right foot.
“I’ve always said that it’s always just another match, but I had been watching everybody else putting on their singlets and walking around the locker room and you think, ‘I want to be out there,’” Andonian said. “Finally, being in the shoes of walking before the match, warming up, seeing the fans, it was a ‘wow’ moment.”
Andonian immediately made an impact for Tech. In the dual meets against West Virginia and Binghamton, he pinned his opponents in 2:19 and 6:03 respectively to help the Hokies to blowout victories.
“It felt good to get back because in high school, I would pin guys a lot because it was high school level,” Andonian said. “Being able to get back to the best version of myself, pinning people felt great; I was pretty pumped in that West Virginia match.”
His career in Blacksburg is just beginning, but Andonian has many aspirations for the future. Those don’t just come in a Hokie singlet, but also beyond his time at Virginia Tech.
“I want to be a four-time national champion and I want to be the greatest wrestler possible,” Andonian said. “At least, I want to be the best possible wrestler I can be, and that starts with goals like Olympic champion, Junior World champion, four-time national champion, and the great thing is that people say there’s no way I can do.”
The goals he has may be high, but he believes whole-heartedly in his ability to accomplish them. Bryce Andonian is just starting at Virginia Tech, but he looks to be a key piece in taking this program to the next level.
“Those are some pretty high goals, but his mind is in the right place; to come in as a freshman and win at nationals is not an easy task,” Robie said. “He’s got some work to do, but it wouldn’t surprise me because if Bryce gets on a roll, he can do some pretty amazing things.”