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The reigning NCAA 165-pound champion will not be in Minneapolis next March to defend his title. Virginia Tech announced today in a press release that Mekhi Lewis will defer eligibility during what would have been his sophomore season and will take an Olympic redshirt during the 2019-20 NCAA season.
The Hokie's first-ever NCAA wrestling champion had this to say about the decision:
I didn't take this decision lightly. I understand that making the 2020 Olympic team and competing for Team USA in Tokyo will be difficult, but I know that deep down I can get the job done.
Bound Brook, New Jersey native Mekhi Lewis has found tremendous success in both folkstyle and freestyle, the latter of which is evidenced by his 2018 UWW Junior World Championship at 74kg. You can watch Lewis win gold against Abubakr Abakarov of Azerbaijan in the video below.
Abakarov just recently beat Aaron Brooks at the 2019 UWW Junior World Championships and will wrestle for a bronze medal later today (or perhaps already did so by the time you are reading this).
Lewis will continue to hone his freestyle skills at the Southeast Regional Training Center, which is also located in Blacksburg, Virginia, home of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.
Lewis' absence from the lineup will leave Hokie head coach Tony Robie with some decisions to make. One possibility is that three-time All-American David McFadden could drop back down to 165 after having bumped up to 174 for the 2019 season. Hunter Bolen could make a similar drop. Alternatively, both McFadden and Bolen could stay up, allowing a number of challengers to vie for the spot.
Lewis took a 23-2 record into the NCAA, which was only good enough for the #8 seed in a stacked bracket. Lewis went on one of the most incredible runs in recent memory, beating Alex Marinelli in the quarters, Evan Wick in the semis, and Vincenzo Joseph, all three of whom will be back to contend for a title in 2020.
You can watch Lewis' last three NCAA matches below.