Mekhi Lewis hooked his right arm around the left leg of North Carolina’s Clay Lautt and drove him to the ground with a minute left in the ACC title match.
The score put Lewis up 3-1 — an advantage he would ride out to be crowned ACC 174-pound champion.
Lewis’ championship victory was satisfying for a number of reasons, considering the wrestlers he had to take down en route to the crown and the fact that he was knocked out of last year’s tournament due to injury.
“I went through a lot, especially last year with the injury,” Lewis said after the match. “So just to come back out here and wrestle with my teammates and show Hokie nation that I’m still kicking, it was pretty cool.”
Lewis, who was also named the tournament’s most outstanding wrestler, was one of the three Virginia Tech wrestlers to bring home conference titles and eight who secured NCAA tournament bids on Sunday in Charlottesville.
Korbin Myers successfully defended his 133-pound ACC title against Pittsburgh’s Micky Phillippi, winning 4-2 after riding out Phillippi for the majority of the second period.
“Third period, I think I had close to two minutes of riding time, but not quite, so [the point] wasn’t locked up,” Myers said. “I kind of knew [Phillippi] was tough on top, that’s kind of how he’s beaten me before, just riding me out.”
Myers owned 1:58 in riding time going into the third and started on bottom. With the score tied at two, the savvy veteran knew he needed to secure the riding time point to put himself in position to win.
Only 36 seconds into the period, Myers performed a sit out and pried Phillippi’s hands off of his stomach, snatching an escape point to earn a 3-2 lead while keeping the riding time point.
“My thought process [in the third period] was to get out, and then once I got to my feet, it was like, if he makes a mistake, sting him with one, but just stay solid and maintain the lead,” Myers said on his approach to the third period.
Nathan Traxler won his second conference title of his career, defeating N.C. State’s Tyrie Houghton, 9-6. Traxler’s championship is his second in as many conferences, as he earned Pac-12 champion honors at 197 pounds in 2019.
“It’s cool to know that [the 2019 championship] wasn’t a fluke,” Traxler said after the match. “I never thought it was, but it’s exciting to be able to say you won a title in two different conferences. Not everyone can say that, so it’s pretty cool.”
Virginia Tech had two wrestlers place second in the tournament, as Sam Latona and Bryce Andonian both suffered losses in their championship bouts.
Latona faced NC State’s Jakob Camacho, who he had beaten in four-straight previous meetings, including two weeks prior in the regular season.
Tied 1-1 with 16 seconds left in the match, Camacho drove in on a shot and received a takedown call five seconds before the final whistle — nearly an identical finish to Latona’s buzzer-beating win over him in Feb. 2021.
“It’s a heartbreaker to see [Latona] give one up like that, but this tournament is just a stepping-stone,” Myers said on Latona’s match. “Two weeks from now at Detroit, that’s where it really matters.
“I think this will actually be good for him. I think it’s going to kind of motivate him into the next two weeks here.”
Andonian’s championship match wasn’t as close down the stretch. NC State’s Tariq Wilson, who beat Andonian two weeks prior 9-3, jumped out to a 4-2 lead at the end of the first period that he didn’t give up.
Only able to put up two more points over the final two periods, Andonian fell 10-4, cementing a second-place finish in the tournament for the third consecutive season.
Hunter Bolen pinned Pittsburgh’s Gregg Harvey with 1:18 left in the first period to secure third place at 184-pounds.
Both Collin Gerardi (141) and Connor Brady (157) placed fourth to earn NCAA tournament bids. Clayton Ulrey finished fourth at 165 pounds, narrowly missing qualification for the NCAA tournament as only the top three finishers automatically qualified. He is still in contention for an at-large bid.
Dakota Howard finished the day 0-2 after a gutting 10-9 loss to North Carolina’s Max Shaw in the opening round at 197 pounds. Howard did not earn a tournament bid, but similar to Ulrey, could receive an at-large selection.
Virginia Tech finished second in the final team standings with 76 points, behind NC State. The Wolfpack racked up 98.5 team points to win the ACC wrestling title for the fourth-straight season.
Results for Virginia Tech wrestlers:
Sam Latona (125):
Semifinals – W, Patrick McCormick (UVA), 16-5 Maj dec.
Finals – L, Jakob Camacho (NCSU), 3-1 dec.
Korbin Myers (133):
Semifinals – W, Kai Orine (NCSU), 6-2 dec.
Finals – W, Micky Phillippi (PITT), 4-2 dec.
Collin Gerardi (141):
Quarterfinals – W, Dylan Cedeno (UVA), 1-0 dec.
Semifinals – L, Cole Matthews (PITT), 2-0 dec.
Consolation Semifinal – W, Patrick Rowland (DUKE), 8-2 dec.
Third Place Match – L, Dylan Cedeno (UVA), 7-5 dec.
Bryce Andonian (149):
Semifinals – W, Josh Finesilver (DUKE), 19-3 Tech Fall, 6:51
Finals – L, Tariq Wilson (NCSU), 10-4 dec.
Connor Brady (157):
Quarterfinals – L, Ed Scott (NCSU), 5-2 dec.
Consolation Semifinal – W, Wade Unger (DUKE), 4-3 dec.
Third Place Match – L, Jake Keating (UVA), 6-1 dec.
Clayton Ulrey (165):
Quarterfinals – W, Sonny Santiago (UNC), 6-4 dec.
Semifinals – L, Jake Wentzel (PITT), 3-0 dec.
Consolation Semifinal – W, Gabe Dinette (DUKE), 5-3 dec.
Third Place Match – L, Thomas Bullard (NCSU), 1-0 dec.
Mekhi Lewis (174):
Quarterfinal – W, Hunter Kernan (PITT), 16-4 Maj dec.
Semifinal – W, Hayden Hidlay (NSCU), 3-2 dec.
Final – W, Clay Lautt (UNC), 4-2 dec.
Hunter Bolen (184):
Quarterfinal – W, Vincent Baker (DUKE), 16-3 Maj dec.
Semifinal – L, Gavin Kane (UNC), 4-3 TB-1
Consolation Semifinal – W, Michael Battista (UVA), 4-2 dec.
Third Place Match – W, Gregg Harvey (PITT), Fall 1:42
Dakota Howard (197):
Quarterfinal – L, Max Shaw (UNC), 10-9 dec.
Consolation Semifinal – L, Jay Aiello (UVA), 8-2 dec.
Nathan Traxler (HWT, 285):
Semifinal – W, Quinn Miller (UVA), 5-3 SV dec.
Final – W, Tyrie Houghton (NCSU), 9-6 dec.