Virginia Tech Wrestling 2017-18 Preview: Middleweights

BLACKSBURG - To get fans prepared for No. 9 Virginia Tech’s home and season opener against No. 21 Stanford on Saturday at 1:30 p.m., Inside Hokie Sports’ Jimmy Robertson put together previews for each weight class. Here’s Tech’s outlook in the middleweights:

149 pounds – Redshirt junior Solomon Chishko returns to anchor this weight class for the third straight year. He won his first ACC title last season, and he finished sixth at the NCAA Championships for the second consecutive year to earn All-America honors. He went 25-6 overall and already has won 55 matches in two years. He enters the season ranked fourth in the nation at his weight class, and head coach Tony Robie expects a big redshirt junior season.

“He’s got to be a guy whose goal is to be wrestling in the NCAA final on Saturday night,” Robie said. “He’s certainly good enough to do that, and he’s got to take advantage of the opportunities in the room with his training partners and with his coaches. He’s in a great situation because [assistant coach Frank] Molinaro and [assistant coach Jared] Frayer were 149-pounders, so for me, looking at his situation, it’s as good as it’s been from a training standpoint.

“He’s done a pretty good job, especially this fall, just getting his body in shape and making sure he’s ready to go. I expect big things out of him this year.”

The Hokies lack depth at this weight class, though freshman Brendan Grammes, a McLean, Virginia native, won two Virginia Group 6A state titles during his prep career.

157 pounds – Tech’s roster features three talented 157-pounders, as Robie seeks to replace Sal Mastriani, who went 20-9 and earned his first All-America honor last season. The trio consists of redshirt junior Ryan Blees, redshirt freshman B.C. LaPrade and freshman sensation Mekhi Lewis.

Blees, who transferred from Oklahoma State three years ago, went 12-5 in limited action last season, and LaPrade went 19-10 while wrestling unattached. Lewis, out of Bound Brook, New Jersey, ranked as one of the top recruits in the nation as a senior in high school.

This battle figures to continue well into fall workouts, but that actually is a good thing. Coaches like competition, and everyone at this weight class figures to get even better because of it.

“It’s hard to say how it’s going to pan out right now,” Robie said. “I think B.C. and Ryan have improved a lot since last year, and Mekhi Lewis has been impressive since he showed up on campus. He’s by far the best athlete on our team.

“It’s really a weight class that is a little of a question mark in terms of who is going to be the guy, but I feel good about any of these three guys if we have to put them out on the mat.”

165 pounds – This season marks the return of David McFadden, who took a redshirt season last year to recover fully from a torn ACL suffered in the 2016 NCAA Championships. As a freshman at those Championships, McFadden earned All-America honors, which capped a 27-11 campaign.

McFadden has recovered fully from the knee injury, and Robie expects him to take the next step in his development.

“David has looked fantastic,” Robie said. “He really has. He’s a guy that’s a student of the sport of wrestling. He’s constantly trying to improve and learn and add new things to his wrestling. His wrestling IQ is incredibly high. He’s a great learner, and he wants to come in and work with coaches and add things to his wrestling. I’ve seen a lot of improvement out of him.

“At the end of the day, I think his best quality is that he loves the sport of wrestling as much as anyone in our program. He loves to work out, he loves to train and he really loves to compete, so we have high expectations for David. He’s going to be in the mix to win a title this year, and he’s capable of doing that. He believes that in his mind, and that’s really important.”

Mike Ciavarro serves as the backup at this weight class. The redshirt junior has seen limited action in his career.

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