Penn State Wrestling: 4 Bold Predictions for 2023-24 season - NittanyCentral

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NittanyCentral is home for the latest Penn State Football, Penn State Wrestling, Penn State Basketball news, updates, and analysis of the Penn State Nittany Lions

NittanyCentral is home for the latest Penn State Football, Penn State Wrestling, Penn State Basketball news, updates, and analysis of the Penn State Nittany Lions

The latest news, insight, and analysis of Penn State Football, Penn State Wrestling, and Penn State Basketball, including schedules, game results, analysis of breaking news, rumors, speculation, and recruiting coverage of future Penn State Nittany Lions

NittanyCentral is home to the latest Penn State Nittany Lions news, updates, insight, and analysis, including in-depth coverage of Penn State Football, Penn State Wrestling, Penn State Basketball, and much more

Penn State Wrestling: 4 Bold Predictions for 2023-24 season

Penn State Wrestling is mere days away from kicking off the 2023-2024 wrestling season at the Journeymen Collegiate Classic. And when the season is that close, it means one thing and one thing only.

It’s time for some bold predictions!

Penn State Wrestling
Penn State Wrestling head coach Cael Sanderson.


And yes to be fair, based on some of my past predictions, you could easily substitute the word “bold” for “incorrect”.

But hey, at least they all sound good in both theory and in my head.

So with that, let’s take a crack at the Nittany Lions and see what me and the voices inside of my head envision for the upcoming season.

4 Bold Predictions for Penn State Wrestling

Bold Prediction No. 1: Levi Haines will be one of the most dominant wrestlers in the nation

On the heels of winning the title in the 2022 Black Knight Invite, Haines was thrust into the starting lineup early last year in the National Collegiate Duals as Terrell Barraclough was banged up.

Levi proceeded to win all three matches in impressive fashion.

He was once again in the starting lineup for Penn State’s dual meet against both Wisconsin and Michigan. And all Haines did was major decision a two-time NCAA qualifier and best a four-time NCAA qualifier and two-time All-American in sudden victory.

Based on the game plan from the beginning of the season, Levi Haines was supposed to see some action in the starting lineup but ultimately he would redshirt.

But, that didn’t happen because Haines proved to be just THAT good on the mat.

Instead of taking a redshirt, Levi Haines won a Big Ten title and made it all the way to the finals in the 2023 NCAA Championships.

Haines’ compiled a phenomenal 27-2 record on the year and his only loss after being a starter for the Nittany Lions was at the hands of the eventual champion, UNC’s Austin O’Connor. And while his win percentage on the season was great, Levi’s bonus point percentage was 34%.

But that’s going to change this season. Because look, Haines was a true freshman on the mat last year and for him it was all about getting comfortable and confident in his abilities. Which based on the results I would definitely say “mission accomplished”.

As for this coming season? I believe Levi Haines is going to just let it rip on the mat. Everyone knows he trained from the tutelage of David Taylor at the M2 Training Center and it’s no secret Haines likes to pile on the points in matches.

Which is exactly what Nittany Lion fans are about to see.

And when I mean Levi Haines is going to be one of the most dominant wrestlers in the nation, picture what Zain Retherford, David Taylor, Jason Nolf, and Bo Nickal did to their foes.

With Levi’s frame, talent, confidence, abilities, and with the new three point takedown, the Penn State faithful are going to see pins and technical falls from the 157 pound slot on par with the greats listed above.

Book it!


Bold Prediction No. 2: Shayne Van Ness will be a national champion

“Really Chris? You think saying a guy will win an NCAA title when they finished third last season is a bold prediction?”

Yes I do.

Let me ask you this. Do you know how insanely hard it is to win an NCAA individual title in D1 wrestling?

Cue the scene in Moneyball when Billy Beane tried to convince Scott Hatteberg how easy it was to play first base.

Beane: “Scott, it’s not that hard, Scott. Tell’em Wash.”
Cue Ron Washington: “It’s incredibly hard.”
Beane: “Hey, anything worth doing is.”

Thank you Brad Pitt, truer words have never been spoken before.

On a side note, let’s take a look at the pre-season top eight grapplers at 149 according to InterMat:

1. Ridge Lovett Nebraska
2. Shayne Van Ness Penn State
3. Kyle Parco Arizona State
4. Caleb Henson Virginia Tech
5. Dylan D’Emilio Ohio State
6. Graham Rooks Indiana
7. Jackson Arrington NC State
8. Chance Lamer Cal Poly

Although Van Ness hasn’t faced Lovett, E’Emilio, or Arrignton in his career, he’s a career 7-0 against that group. This coupled with the fact something clicked with Shayne at last year’s NCAA Championship and I firmly believe he can bring home the title this coming season.

Bold Prediction No. 3: Mitchell Mesenbrink will be the guy at 165

Penn State Wrestling
Penn State Wrestling star MItchell Messenbrink.


Alex Facundo was cruising into the 2023 Big Ten Championships sporting a 16-2 record. Confidence appeared to be at a super high level, however he stumbled his way through a 3-1 win in his opening round match against Indiana’s Nicholas South.

And in Facundo’s next six matches spanning the Big Ten’s and NCAA’s, he went 2-4.

Uh oh.

I have no idea what happened to Alex but clearly something was hindering him. The same guy who was previously quick on his feet and able to land takedowns on some of the best wrestlers in the nation, all of a sudden wasn’t able to drive through his shots and he looked hesitant.

Was Facundo dealing with an injury? Or was he simply in his own head?

Again, I have no idea.

But here are a couple of things I do know:

-Mitchell Mesenbrink transferred from Cal-Baptist and he now wrestles for Penn State.
-Mitchell Mesenbrink is the best U20 freestyle wrestler on the planet at 74 kg.

The rumor on the street was that Penn State had their pre-season wrestle offs a couple of days ago. And all eyes were on two important weight classes for the Nittany Lions; 125 pounds and 165 pounds.

And I’m going to predict this, when the dust settles and Penn State is heading into the latter portion of the 2023-2024 season, it will be Mesenbrink who will occupy the starting spot at 165 pounds.

But there’s one thing I want to make perfectly clear. I am by no means writing off Alex Facundo. The guy is way too talented and he’s way too good to simply blow off as a competitive grappler. Alex will eventually figure things out and down the road he will once again be back in the starting lineup either at 165 or 174 pounds.

Penn State Wrestling, Aaron Brooks
Penn State Wrestling’s Aaron Brooks. (Photo by Scott Pilutik, For NittanyCentral)

Bold Prediction No. 4: Aaron Brooks will shock the world

I know what you’re already thinking. How in the world can you make a bold prediction about a three-time Big Ten Champion and three-time NCAA Champion?

The answer is pretty easy. You can’t.

Because I feel like Aaron Brooks will completely steam roll the competition at 197 pounds and I firmly believe he will be a four-time Big Ten Champion and a four-time NCAA Champion.

So now onto the bold prediction for Aaron Brooks, and I’ll admit this doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with Penn State Wrestling.

Rather what this had to do with is what Aaron Brooks will do at the US Olympic Wrestling Trials following the 2024 NCAA Championships. And my bold prediction is that Brooks will upend the current king of freestyle at 86 kg, David “The Magic Man” Taylor, in the finals at the trials.

Furthermore, I predict the Aaron Pain-Train will continue in the 2024 Summer Olympics and he will return home with an Olympic gold medal around his neck.

MORE: Penn State’s Definitive Wrestling Mount Rushmore

Penn State Wrestling
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