No. 10 Virginia Tech Wrestling Drops Season-Opener to No. 4 Ohio State

Mekhi Lewis is 2-0 for Virginia Tech against Ohio State. (Ivan Morozov)

True freshman Caleb Henson looked out to the packed crowd inside the Covelli Center, showing off the VT logo on his singlet. The 149-pound Henson earned the right to brag; the Virginia Tech rookie had just upset Ohio State’s No. 2 Sammy Sasso in a sudden victory period for his first collegiate dual win, 5-3.

Henson’s upset victory gave the Hokies an initial 3-0 lead on Friday night, but it was squandered after Tech lost six of the next nine matches.

No. 10 Virginia Tech opened up its 2022 dual season the same way it did last year: losing to No. 4 Ohio State, 18-13. The Hokies lost to the Buckeyes last season in Blacksburg, 17-13.

In a match that included five bouts featuring a wrestler ranked in the top ten at their weight, VT struggled to stack wins. The Hokies won only four of the ten clashes against Ohio State with victories from Henson, No. 2 Mekhi Lewis, No. 19 Sam Latona and No. 16 Tom Crook.

In his first dual match at 149 pounds, Henson more than proved he could fill the shoes of former 149-pound starter Bryce Andonian, who moved up to 157 this season. 

Trailing 3-0 at the start of the third period, Henson immediately escaped after beginning on bottom and then tied the match with a takedown with less than thirty seconds left in regulation.

In the sudden victory period, Henson narrowly allowed Sasso to score on a takedown, but he kept spinning away. He eventually was able to flip Sasso around for the bout-winning takedown.

The true freshman’s comeback victory over the two-time All-American showed that he has what it takes to become one of the best wrestlers in the country at 149 pounds. Sasso was the NCAA runner-up in 2021 and finished fifth in 2022.

Lewis began his dual season with a ranked win over Ohio State’s No. 6 Ethan Smith at 174 pounds, 3-2. In last year’s dual against Smith, Lewis won 4-2. 

With the match tied at two at the start of the third period, Lewis began on bottom and quickly escaped for a point. He was able to fend off Smith for the remainder of the match to pull out the victory. The former national champion was surgical against Smith, never trailing at any point during the top-ten bout.

Lewis looked like himself against Smith on Friday night. (Ivan Morozov)

While Lewis was favored on paper to take down Smith, another veteran Hokie wrestler pulled off an upset win against the Buckeyes. In his dual debut at 133 pounds, No. 19 Sam Latona took down Ohio State’s No. 11 Jesse Mendez, 3-2.

Latona scored on a takedown on a single-leg shot to lead in the second period, but an escape from Mendez tied the score at 2-2 heading into the third.

Starting on bottom, Latona was able to escape Mendez to take a 3-2 lead, and he never looked back to move to 5-1 on the season.

The Hokies finished the dual the same way they started it, with true freshman No. 16 Tom Crook earning his first collegiate dual victory. He came away with the only major decision victory on either side Friday night, taking down Ohio State’s Nic Bouzakis at 141 pounds, 14-6.

Following an action-packed first period, Crook led Bouzakis through the first three minutes, 6-4. He added a takedown in the second period to build his lead to 8-5.In the final two minutes, Crook was able to escape from the bottom position and snag a pair of takedowns against Bouzakis. He also finished with over a minute in riding time, adding another point to his total and building his margin of victory to eight points — good enough for a major decision victory.

Four ranked Hokie wrestlers lost on Friday night as No. 9 Hunter Bolen (184), No. 18 Hunter Catka (285), No. 25 Eddie Ventresca (125) and No. 29 Connor Brady (165) all fell on the wrong sides of their matches.

Bolen never led at any point against Ohio State’s No. 4 Kaleb Romero. As the match entered the third period tied at two, Romero escaped from the bottom position less than 20 seconds in to gain the lead, and he added another point after Bolen was called for stalling for the second time in the match. Romero rode out the result from there.

Hunter Catka nearly avenged last year’s heavyweight starter Nathan Traxler against Ohio State’s No. 7 Tate Orndorff at 285 pounds, but fell at the buzzer, 3-1. In the final match of last year’s dual, Traxler fell to Orndorff, 3-2. 

Unranked wrestlers Clayton Ulrey (157) and Andy Smith (197) were both unable to pull up upset victories against ranked Buckeye wrestlers, each losing 3-1.

Ulrey filled in for No. 5 Bryce Andonian, who was absent from the Hokies starting lineup against Ohio State. There was no official word from the program regarding his absence, but Mark Berman of the Roanoke Times reported on Nov. 3 that the 2022 All-American was questionable going into the match while dealing with a foot injury.

Virginia Tech returns to the mat on Sunday, Nov. 20 at the Keystone Classic in Philadelphia.

Results: No. 4 Ohio State 18, No. 10 Virginia Tech 13, 

125: No. 11 Malik Heinselman (OSU) dec. No. 25 Eddie Ventresca (VT), 3-1

133: No. 19 Sam Latona (VT) dec. No. 11 Jesse Mendez (OSU), 3-2

141: No. 16 Tom Crook (VT) maj dec. Nic Bouzakis (OSU),  14-6

149: No. 27 Caleb Henson (VT) dec. No. 2 Sammy Sasso (OSU), 5-3 SV

157: No. 22 Paddy Gallagher (OSU) dec. Clayton Ulrey (VT), 14-8

165: No. 6 Carson Kharchla (OSU) dec. No. 29 Connor Brady (VT), 3-1

174: No. 2 Mekhi Lewis (VT) dec. No. 6 Ethan Smith (OSU), 3-2

184: No. 4 Kaleb Romero (OSU) dec. No. 9 Hunter Bolen (VT), 4-2

197: No. 14 Gavin Hoffman (OSU) dec. Andy Smith (VT), 4-2

285: No. 7 Tate Orndorff (OSU) dec. No. 18 Hunter Catka (VT), 3-1

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