Penn State Wrestling: MVP, Takeaways From B1G Championships

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

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: 3 Key Takeaways, MVP from 2024 Big Ten Championships

With all of the excitement from Penn State’s dominating performance in the 2024 Big Ten’s in the rearview mirror let’s take a deeper dive into how everything unfolded. Even for a team as dominant as the Nittany Lions, they still had several unanswered questions leading into the weekend.

And look, I get it. It’s very possible I was the only human being on the planet that had these questions. Because when you have a dynasty the likes of the Nittany Lions’ which warrants its own “Whatever the hell Penn State wrestling is” category, there can’t be that many question marks.

But there were several things I had my eye on over the weekend and I can say with 100% confidence they have all been answered and squarely put to bed.

3 Penn State Wrestling Takeaways from the 2024 Big Ten Championships

No. 1 – Who said anything about any underperformances?

It’s me. Hi. I’m the one who asked that question.

But you can’t look at how both Braeden Davis and Aaron Nagao finished the Big Ten regular season dual schedule and not have some concerns going into the postseason. Both guys had dropped two of their last three Big Ten matches and they clearly weren’t firing on all cylinders as the season was winding down.

And all Davis and Nagao did last weekend was win a Big Ten title as a true freshman and plow through the field with a third place finish after dropping a tough semifinals match. So yeah, I thing both guys performed phenomenally and their confidence has to be high.

In the quarterfinals, semifinals, and finals, Davis took down three top Big Ten wrestlers who’ve amassed five previous All-American finishes in their careers. The 125 group stayed true to form as it had all year as the bracket completely blew up in the quarters with both the No. 1 seed (Matt Ramos) and the No. 2 seed (Drake Ayala) falling. But it still ended up being a meat grinder for Braeden and his composure on the mat was incredible.

Nagao didn’t have quite the gauntlet that Davis did and he did end up losing his semifinals revenge match against Dylan Ragusin, but he blew up his counterparts in the consolation bracket.

Aaron walked through Braxton Brown (9-5) in his first consolation match before pinning Jacob Van Dee in the first period of the third place match.

Braeden Davis and Aaron Nagao are locked and loaded and they are only going to get better in the time leading up to the 2024 NCAA Championships.

No. 2 – 165 is a crazy weight class

In a Big Ten tournament that saw five No. 1 seeds take home titles (The Nittany Lions had three of the five), the fact that there’s no better conference in wrestling than the Big Ten is simply a side note to the fact that many of the weight classes have insane depth and parity. And none is more loaded than the group at 165.

Just in the Big Ten you have top 10 guys like Antrell Taylor, 2023 All-American Mikey Caliendo, and three-time All-American Cameron Amine. Then across the nation you have Cornell’s Julian Ramirez, Oklahoma State’s four-time NCAA qualifier and 2023 All-American Izzak Olejnik, and West Virginia’s 2022 All-American Peyton Hall.

And that’s all before you take a look at the four wrestlers at the top; Missouri’s Keegan O’Toole, Iowa State’s David Carr, Wisconsin’s Dean Hamiti, and Penn State‘s Mitchell Mesenbrink.

Every wrestling fan who was there in person and who tuned in to the Big Ten’s on tv were graced with one of the best matches of the weekend as two of the above guys locked horns in the 165 finals.

And it’s fitting that the nickname of the man who’s hand was raised at the center of the mat following a finals win at a crazy weight class is “Psycho”. Mitchell “Psycho” Mesenbrink’s incredible 13-11 win over Dean Hamiti further deepened the discussion that this year’s group at 165 is one of the deepest and most exciting weight classes in several years. The quarterfinals and semifinals in the 2024 NCAA Championships will undoubtedly be “drop whatever you’re doing and get in front of a tv or computer screen STAT!” when they roll around in less than two weeks.

Just the thought of an O’Toole/Hamiti and Mesenbrink/Carr semifinals makes me giddy.

No. 3 – Steel sharpens steel

I know it’s a bit disappointing that Penn State’s full squad no longer participates in large in-season tournaments such as the Southern Scuffle. The days of Nittany Lion grapplers like Kerry McCoy, Ed Ruth, and Zain Retherford having 30+ matches under their belts before even getting to the NCAA Championships are long gone.

I’ve seen from several Penn State fans that the once tried and true philosophy of “Steel sharpens steel” has been changed to a more tongue-in-cheek “Rest sharpens steel” as many Nittany Lion wrestlers are barely getting in 12+ matches before the Big Ten’s.

But think about it, why on earth would Cael Sanderson send out Beau Bartlett and Greg Kerkvliet 25+ times in the regular season when they see the best competition in the nation in their own wrestling room?

This is exactly why the Big Ten Championships serve a very important purpose for the Nittany Lions.

This is the weekend on the calendar that Penn State uses to sharpen its steel with the steel from the other top programs in the Big Ten. Nittany Lion nation knows that winning in the Big Ten’s is nice, however that’s not the overarching goal.

For guys like Tyler Kasak, Beau Bartlett, and Bernie Truax, this year’s Big Ten Championships served their purpose to a “T”.

As a true freshman, Kasak now knows what it’s like to take part in a postseason tournament when the lights are a bit brighter than the regular season and the opponents are all high level studs.

Yes, Jesse Mendez did avenge a prior loss to Beau Bartlett and he won his first Big Ten title. Great. But that loss benefitted Beau infinitely more than the win helped Mendez. And when the wrestling commences in Kansas City Bartlett will know exactly what he needs to do to get the job done.

Bernie Truax himself avenged a loss to Nebraska’s Lenny Pinto of the semifinals and he got to square off against Minnesota’s Isaiah Salazar for the first time. And while the outcome wasn’t what Truax wanted, he got the best possible ancillary benefit. The ability to use the Big Ten’s as an advance scouting tool so he knows what counters and tactics he can use in the future.

The best wrestling room in the country just got better simply by being in College Park last weekend. The Big Ten Championships are the absolute best tune up for when the sport’s ultimate glory and history await at the 2024 NCAA Championships.

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

MVP – Aaron Brooks

This was the most no-brainer of all no-brainers.

Aaron Brooks won all three matches in the Big Ten’s with bonus points (two technical falls and a major decision), he’s a perfect 17-0 on the season with a bonus point percentage of 94%, he was named the Outstanding Wrestler in the 2024 Big Ten Championships, and he was named the Big Ten Wrestler of the Year.

One of the best all-time wrestler’s in Penn State history is wrestling at a level that very few have ever achieved. And the only thing that stands between him and four NCAA titles are the five upcoming matches in the 2024 NCAA Championships.

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Chris Snyder
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