Photo Credit: Dave Knachel/Virginia Tech Athletics
Last year was a historic season for Virginia Tech Wrestling as Mekhi Lewis became the program's first individual NCAA champion. This year will be one of the most interesting in the program's history as the Hokies will be without Lewis who is using a special Olympic redshirt ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Games.
Meanwhile, David McFadden slides back to 165 for his senior season while Korbin Myers drops to 125 and Hunter Bolen returns at 184 after redshirting last season. Overall, there are a lot of interesting storylines surrounding Virginia Tech both in what will happen in their
1. David McFadden Returns to 165
With Mekhi Lewis taking an Olympic redshirt, David McFadden returns to his best weight class, 165.
While McFadden was able to win an ACC title and earn All-American status last season at 174, it became clear relatively early in the season that while this was the best lineup for VT, it wasn't the best weight for McFadden currently.
Now, McFadden enters his senior season ranked 4th at 165 by Intermat as a top contender to win his first NCAA title. Of course, most thought McFadden would be the first to win an individual national title for the Hokies until Lewis flipped the sport upside down at last year's NCAAs and became one of collegiate wrestling's biggest stars.
McFadden has plenty of experience facing the top guys at 165 and should be more than ready for the challenge. Additionally, McFadden will likely have a little extra chip on his shoulder given that it's his last year and that the bar has been raised with Lewis claiming the national title last year.
McFadden enters this season as the Hokies' best hope to have a second-straight year with an individual national champion as he pursues winning his third ACC title and earn All-American honors for the third time.
2. Korbin Myers Drops Down to 125
The biggest surprise for Virginia Tech Wrestling is Korbin Myers dropping down from 133 to 125, opening the spot at 133 for redshirt freshman Collin Gerardi (more on him later). Gerardi's talelateithmay have been part of the reason, but given Myers' talent and age, it seems like this had to be seen as a better wrestling weight for him.
Most of the time, the only times a wrestler makes a move is either up a class or back down to a weight that said wrestler started their career at as McFadden has done. However, Myers has taken the least common path of dropping down to a weight class he hasn't wreslted at in his time at college.
The question that this move brings is whether Myers can be large for his weight class at 125 without losing much in terms of strength and take advantage of wrestling at 125.
If so, Myers will give the Hokies their first All-American (and potential national title) contender at 125 since the departure of Joey Dance. More than that, Myers turns 125 from a consistent weak spot into one of the strongest parts of the Hokies' lineups for the first time since Dance left.
Of course, this will all come down to 2 things: whether Myers can consistently make weight at 125, and whether he'll be healthy soon enough to wrestle enough times this year instead of using a medical redshirt.
If he can after dealing with an injury, the Hokies will have one of their top wrestlers at 125 while having their best 125-133 combination in a while with Myers and Gerardi. If not, 125 will likely be a weakness again on paper with Joey Prata currently at the top there.
3. Hunter Bolen Could Be a Star at 184.
After earning ACC Freshman of the Year in 2018 while wrestling at 174, Hunter Bolen redshirted last season as he moved up to 184. Now, Bolen enters the 2019-20 ready to take the torch from Zack Zavatsky and challenge for an ACC title.
Bolen appears to have clearly benefited from moving up weights as some guys tend to when they don't have to make as severe of a weight cut. Additionally, Bolen had one of the best to learn from in Zack Zavatsky who has plenty of deep NCAA runs and ACC titles to give Bolen lots of great experience that could be quite valuable.
Bolen is ranked in the top 10 by Intermat at 184 likely due in part to his impressive redshirt season that included beating Chip Ness, a 2019 All-American, at what was the Hokie Open and is now known as the Southeast Open.
The Christiansburg native will be tested with Pittsburgh sophomore Nino Bonaccorsi starting ranked in the top 5 at 184 in what has the potential to be a great ACC rivalry over the next 3 years.
Hunter Bolen may be new for Virginia Tech at 184, but after an impressive redshirt year, it's clear that Bolen not only is a serious All-American contender, but also a sleeper to contend for a national title.
4. Lower Weights Could Be a Strong Part of Hokies' Lineup.
Virginia Tech has an intriguing group of wrestlers from 133 to 149 with Collin Gerardo (133) and Mitch Moore (141) both in the preseason top 20 by Intermat. Additionally, 2018 ACC champion Brent Moore returns this season after missing last season due to injury, doing so at 149 instead of 141.
While the elder Moore isn't ranked, it may not take long for him to climb into the top 20 if he looks like the man who was the 2018 ACC Championship's Most Valuable Wrestler. Meanwhile, Gerardi and Mitch Moore both are among only 2 ACC wrestlers ranked st their respective weight classes, showing how the path to an ACC Championship title could largely go through the lower weights.
Mitch Moore is a more known commodity as the sophomore was the ACC Freshman of the Year last season after finishing second at the ACC Championships. There's a lot of growth that can happen between a wrestler's first and second collegiate season, giving Hokie fans reason to believe that the Ohio native could be a top candidate for a major breakout.
Gerardi may not be a well-known name, but the redshirt freshman may be the future of 133 as the only ranked freshman by Intermat. This comes after Gerardi went 17-6 wrestling unattached last season including winning the 133 title at App State Open and nearly upsetting 2019 All-American Roman Bravo-Young in sudden victory at last year's Southern Scuffle. Gerardi showed he can compete with the best and though he starts the season near the bottom of the top 20, don't be surprised to see him steadily climb a few spots given the promise he's shown.
For the first time in years, the Hokies are arguably stronger at the lower 5 weights than the upper 5 with the trio of Collin Gerardi, Mitch Moore, and Brent Moore being one to watch during the 2019-20 season.
5. Beyond The Starting 10
An Olympic year and a talented freshman class mean that some of the biggest storylines surrounding the Hokies go beyond the starting lineup.
First is Mekhi Lewis and his pursuit of a spot in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics which has taken him to elite competitions across the world. Lewis also isn't alone as Virginia Tech assistant Ty Walz is also hoping to reach next summer's Olympics.
While both will be training in Blacksburg (and Walz coaching), get ready to see both of them travelling all over the field as the both hope to qualify for next summer's Olympics.
Virginia Tech also brought in a top 5 recruiting class last year with Connor Brady (157), Bryce Andonian (149), and Sam Latona (125) among the biggest names in the class, all of whom are expected to redshirt this year.
One of the unique things about wrestling is that all of these guys can wrestle unattached at tournamemts and preserve their eligibility. Get ready to see these guys wrestling at plenty of tournaments starting with the Southeast Open in Roanoke where Hunter Bolen impressed while doing the same last year as he upset North Carolina's Chip Ness, a 2019 All-American, on his way to the finals.
Brady, in particular, will be worth keeping an eye on. The 157 true freshman upset redshirt junior B.C. LaPrade at Virginia Tech's wrestle-offs and while Brady isn't expected to start over the preseason #17 157 wrestler, Brady has the type of talent that will force an intense competition by fall of 2020 at the latest.