Chris Mecate: The Two-Time All-American
It’s the first week of Chris Mecate’s collegiate career. He is going up against then captain John Nicholson. Nicholson is beating up the freshman and Mecate is so tired he can barely stand. After a double leg take down off the mat on to the floor in the wrestling room, before he could stand again, Nicholson pushes Mecate out of the double doors into the hallway of the wrestling building.
“He took me down again right there in that hallway. Administrators and other athletes were just passing through. My back was killing me, I was hurting so bad,” Mecate said.
A beaten down Mecate is on his back and starts to throw his legs up ready to fight. He knows he’s not going to win. Nicholson towers over him and says, “You better get off your back. The tile is cold.”
“That was my welcoming to college wrestling. I thought I was in way over my head,” Mecate said.
Five years after being thrown into the hallway of the Jim Jarrett Athletic Administration building, there is a poster hanging, honoring Mecate as a two-time all-American.
He is the first Old Dominion wrestler to do so since Nicholson’s younger brother Jake Nicholson in 2011.
“It’s a great honor. It puts me in an elite class, and I’m very proud of my accomplishments. It stung a little to lose in the quarterfinals. My goal going into that tournament was to be a national champion,” Mecate said.
Mecate secured his All-American victory in the consolation blood round in front of nearly 18,000 fans at Madison Square Garden. He took down Nebraska’s Anthony Abidin in just one minute and 34 seconds.
“I was so focused. I was more zoned in than ever before. If I won, I was an All-American if I lose? Tough season,” he said.
He capped off his decorated wrestling career with one last victory at the end of NCAA weekend. Mecate downed Solomon Chisko from Virginia Tech 5-3 earning himself a fifth place finish at the 2016 NCAA Wrestling Championships.
Mecate had some fun in his last wrestling match of his career and finally took a second to take in the arena and the sold out crowd before him.
“I thought, ‘I’m going to go out there, have some fun and in front of 19,000 people?’ I felt like I was a gladiator in the coliseum,” he said.
His final victory gave him a career record of 115-37, putting him at eighth best in school history.
It wasn’t always easy for the 141-pounder. Ironically, his first two seasons wrestling were his most consistent. His two All-American campaigns were up and down, riddled with injuries and weight struggles.
Early this season, Mecate beat the No. 2 wrestler in the country, N.C. State’s Kevin Jack.
Soon after, he began to struggle with his weight and had to make many sacrifices on and off the mat to stay at 141.
“It was so hard on me, I had to be so mentally focused. That took up almost all my time, and I had to focus on wrestling and school on top of that,” he said.
The Highland, California native started to feel the wear and tear from his workouts and his fluctuating weight. After a seven-point loss in mid-February, Mecate finally earned a day of rest. Feb. 14 was his first day off since early October.
“I took two days off in a row after that loss. I started getting more recovery days, and then I beat two top 15 kids going into the conference tournament. The time off made a huge difference,” Mecate said.
Mecate spoke very highly of his coach for the last five seasons. Steve Martin helped guide Mecate through his ups and downs of the year. Mecate and Martin have known each other since he was in first grade. He attended Martin’s Granby wrestling camp every summer since he was six years old.
“It’s been a good relationship. One thing Steve has taught me is you can’t be afraid of conflict. I trust him, he trusts me. We are both intense dudes, and we both like to win, and luckily, we were able to accomplish a lot,” he said.
He also gave credit to his teammates for helping him along the way. One in particular was 148-pounder Lenny Richardson. Like Mecate, Richardson also has more than 100 career victories for the Monarchs.
“When Lenny and I wrestle in that room, I don’t have battles with anyone like that. We don’t give each other an inch. We butt heads, and we scrap hard, and it pushed me to another level,” he said.
Coaches and teammates have certainly played an important role in a prolific college wrestling career for Mecate. As it comes to a close, he reflects on the success he has had. He is ODU’s 7th two-time All-American and had four consecutive NCAA tournament appearances.
“Absolutely have no regrets. Zero,” he said. “It’s such a hypothetical thing, hindsight is 20/20. I just wanted to go out wrestling as hard as I could. I always moved forward and never dwelled on past victories or defeats. That would have been my downfall.”
As far as the future goes for Mecate, he is scheduled to graduate in May. He will spend next year in the wrestling room as a coach’s assistant. He will work with redshirts and the younger wrestlers on this team.
Mecate also hopes to one day pursue mixed martial arts professionally. It has been a passion of his since he was a young kid. He hopes his wrestling background will give him a good base and style in the ring.
“I’m really good on top and taking guys down. I would need to get boxing and kickboxing down. Just because I’m a good wrestler, doesn’t necessarily make me a good fighter,” he said. “If I pursue it, all my chips will be in. I’ll attack it with everything I have just like I did on the mat.”