In his first international tournament and just his third freestyle competition, Virginia Tech redshirt freshman wrestler Mekhi Lewis won the gold medal for the United States’ at the 2018 Junior World Championships in Trnava, Slovakia on Sunday.
Lewis defeated 2016 Cadet world champion Abubakar Abakarov of Azerbaijan, 5-1, in the 74 kg championship bout. Over the course of four matches, Lewis surrendered only two points, one on a stepout and the other on passivity.
“I feel great. I thought I could do it but being in the moment and accomplishing that goal feels amazing,” Lewis told USA Wrestling after the match. “After all the hard work I put in this summer to learn freestyle and now to be a World champion is the best feeling in the world.
Lewis is the first Hokie wrestler to win a world championship and he joins volunteer assistant coach Ty Walz as the only two Tech wrestlers to claim an international medal while representing a U.S. national team. Of its three finalists, Lewis was the lone gold medalist for the United States. The U.S. placed second in the team standings.
After getting hit for passivity early in the first period, Lewis countered seconds later with a takedown to go up 2-1. Lewis then forced Abakarov to step out twice in the second period, including a decisive toss on the edge of the mat to go up 4-1, before Abakarov was hit for unsportsmanlike conduct that extended Lewis’ lead to 5-1.
Lewis will now shift gears to folk-style with the Virginia Tech wrestling team.
The Hokies are coming off of winning their second consecutive ACC championship under head coach Tony Robie and their sixth straight top 10 finish at the NCAA championships. The Hokies return All-Americans David McFadden and Zack Zavatsky along with three transfers that have previously qualified for nationals; Korbin Myers, Tom Sleigh and Billy Miller.
— VT athletics