Why is Lev Mechnikov smiling? He just pinned his opponent and qualified for the state tournament.
Why is Lev Mechnikov smiling? He just pinned his opponent and qualified for the state tournament. (Sandy McKenzie)

Lev Mechnikov wrote a different wrestling story in his senior season.

Lev Mechnikov’s first three seasons on the Berkley High School wrestling team weren’t that great.

He was 2-2 as a freshman at 189 pounds and 12-22 as a sophomore, wrestling most of the season at 215 pounds, up a weight class, to fill a lineup spot.

He didn’t wrestle as a junior because of a broken ankle he suffered playing in a Berkley football post-season game.

Missing that season on the mats was a game-changer.

“I was in our wrestling room every day during my junior season, and I realized how much I missed wrestling,” Mechnikov said. “I learned to love the sport.”

Mechnikov wrote a different wrestling story in his senior season.

He went 24-13 at 285 pounds, led Berkley with 15 pins, and surprised himself by qualifying for the Division 1 state tournament.

Lev Mechnikov is in control of Fraser’s Lawrence Dubay before pinning Dubay at regionals.
Lev Mechnikov is in control of Fraser’s Lawrence Dubay before pinning Dubay at regionals. Sandy McKenzie

Not even a bout with COVID-19 that sidelined him late in the season slowed him down.

“I didn’t expect to get to state. I didn’t think that was a possibility,” Mechnikov said.

It was a possibility.

Mechnikov pinned Fraser’s Lawrence Dubay in 1:05 in what’s called the “blood round” at regionals to earn a state tournament berth.

Winners in the “blood round” qualify for state. Losers are done for the season.

After he cleared the “blood round” hurdle, Mechnikov pinned RJ Hancock of St. Clair Shores Lakeview in 4:09 in his next regional match to finish third in his weight class.

Mechnikov lost both of his matches at state March 4 while fighting off the flu, but he loved wrestling at Ford Field in Detroit and being a part of the grand match of more than 1,000 wrestlers.

“It was a cool experience. Amazing. Surreal. I had a good time,” he said.

Mechnikov was pinned by Kalamazoo Central’s Joshua Boggan in 27 seconds in his first match at state. Boggan, a future Kent State University wrestler, went on to finish third at 285 pounds.

Mohammad Hazime of Dearborn Fordson, a future Kent State football player, beat Mechnikov 9-4 in wrestle-backs.

Lev Mechnikov shows off his third-place medal at regionals.
Lev Mechnikov shows off his third-place medal at regionals. Sandy McKenzie

“I don’t want to use having the flu as an excuse, but I was only about 80% when I wrestled at state and I was more fatigued than normal during my matches,” Mechnikov said. “It just wasn’t my day.”

At 5-foot-9 and 230 pounds, Mechnikov was smaller than most of his wrestling opponents this season. That certainly was the case at state.

“Lev got a tough draw at state. Both guys he wrestled had to be around 270 pounds,” said Berkley wrestling coach Ron Fritz.

“Lev will tell you he didn’t wrestle his best at state, but just getting there was a major accomplishment and a testament to his hard work.”

Fritz wasn’t surprised that Mechnikov qualified for state.

“Lev’s goal was to make it to regionals, but I thought he had what it takes to make it to state,” he said.

So did Berkley football coach Sean Shields.

Shields, a former All-State wrestler at Madison Heights Bishop Foley High School, told Mechnikov before this wrestling season that he’s a college-level athlete and could accomplish big things in his senior year.

Football is Mechnikov’s No. 1 sport. He might play football at the next level.

A two-year starter for the Berkley football team at offensive guard and defensive tackle who relied on his quickness, work ethic and wrestling skills to fight off bigger opponents, Mechnikov has a couple of Division III college football offers.

“Lev would have a whole lot more offers if he was 6-3,” Shields said. “He actually has the skill set to be a Division II football player, but he probably won’t get that opportunity because of his size.

“He can be a contributor at the Division III level. Maybe not in his freshman year, but certainly after that.”

If playing football in college doesn’t pan out, Mechnikov said, he’s hoping to attend the University of Michigan or Michigan State University.

Mechnikov was well-liked and respected by his now former Berkley wrestling and football teammates and coaches.

He was one of four wrestling team captains chosen by Fritz.

He was one of five football team captains selected by his teammates. He helped the Bears finish 7-3 last fall and qualify for the state playoffs.

“Lev is a great kid. Very funny,” Fritz said. “He’s an outstanding member of our high school community.”

Gabe and Daniella Mechnikov are Lev’s parents. Daniella is the executive director of the Berkley-based Yad Ezra kosher food pantry.

Lev is 18. He has two sisters, Pelli, 20, a junior at Michigan State University, and Mia, 16, a junior at Berkley.

The family lives in Huntington Woods. 

Please send sports news to stevestein502004@yahoo.com.

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