Richie Lewis exudes confidence, believing he has the skill set to beat anyone on the planet. On Sunday he did exactly that.

Lewis, a current redshirt senior for Rutgers University and a Toms River East graduate, defeated India’s Kumar Vinod, 3-1, to capture the 70kg freestyle gold medal at the U23 Freestyle World Championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland.

“It’s a great feeling. I’m just grateful more than anything,” Lewis said during a post-match interview scrum.

Vinod led Lewis, 1-0, after one period but Lewis took the lead for good with a single-leg takedown with two minutes left in the final period. Lewis added another point with 25 seconds remaining to complete the incredible run to a world title.

“It was a tight one. He engaged me with the underhook but he wasn’t doing nothing with it, so I knew even if he pushed me out twice I could still win it with a takedown,” Lewis said. “I wanted to choose my spot because wrestling these foreigners they’re scrappy and loose, so I just chose my opportunity. Would have liked to beat him by more, but I did it.”

Lewis advanced to the championship bout with a 7-2 decision over Kazakhstan’s Zulfikar Makhamatov in the semifinals. He trailed 2-1 midway through the final period before securing a takedown to go up 3-2 and adding four more points to stretch his advantage to 7-2. Lewis was dominant in his five tournament bouts Sunday, outscoring his opponents 45-11 with two technical falls.

Lewis began his tournament with a 10-0 technical fall over Canada’s Caleb Rutner and followed that victory with an 11-1 technical fall against Belarus’s Surkho Rashytkhanau. In the quarterfinals, Lewis defeated 2016 U23 European bronze medalist Muhammet Akdeniz (Turkey) via a 14-7 decision.

Lewis qualified for the U23 World Championships by winning the U23 World Team Trials on Oct. 8, sweeping 2017 NCAA All-American Tyler Berger (Nebraska) in their best-of-three championship series to earn a roster spot. Lewis had a fantastic team trials tournament with wins over three 2017 NCAA qualifiers, two All-Americans and 149-pound NCAA runner-up Lavion Mayes.

Lewis is currently ranked No. 8 at 157 pounds by Intermat and is 1-0 this season for the Scarlet Knights. Lewis was an NCAA qualifier as a junior, going 27-7 overall and 16-1 in dual meets. He was injured early last season and missed the rest of the season. Before coming to Rutgers, Lewis was a two-time National Junior College Athletic Association All-American at Iowa Central, finishing second and third.

“Growing up I was always a tail-end guy, top-20 in the country, 16, 17, never top 10, never won a state title, didn’t win a Juco title,” Lewis said. “Technique was always there, it was (my) size. I really got in the weight room when I want to Iowa Central and I stay in the weight room now. We have one of the best strength coaches in Zach Even-Esh at Rutgers.

A 2014 graduate of Toms River High School East, Lewis went 120-22 in his career with the Raiders, earning three all-state finishes at the NJSIAA Championships, winning three NJSIAA Region VI titles and two NJSIAA District 24 championships. Lewis finished seventh in the state at 119 pounds as a sophomore, placed fifth at 132 as a junior and took third place at 138 pounds his senior season.


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