Penn State Wrestling: Inside How Nittany Lions Won 2024 National Title, Set Scoring Record

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: Inside How Nittany Lions Won 2024 National Title, Set Scoring Record

Penn State Wrestling put on the most impressive performance any team has ever done in the history of the NCAA Wrestling Championships.

The Nittany Lions led the pack from Session I all of the way to Session VI on Saturday evening. It’s rare for any team to wrap up a team title early on Saturday, however this dynastic Penn State lead clinched the trophy on Friday night.

In the end, the Nittany Lions crowned four individual champions, they had two runner-up finishers, a third-place finisher, and in total finished with eight All-Americans.

This weekend’s action in Kansas City was one to certainly remember.

So, let’s take one more look at the final team scores and break down exactly how Penn State Wrestling notched several more entries in the history books.

Penn State Wrestling
Rec Hall, home of Penn State Wrestling (Photo by Chris Snyder, for NittanyCentral)

Final Team Scores

1. Penn State Wrestling 172.5
2. Cornell 72.5
3. Michigan 71.0
4. Iowa State 68.5
5. Iowa 67.0

The Nittany Lions broke Iowa’s team scoring mark (170) which stood in place since 1997. So obviously the team race was completely one-sided.

However, an argument could be made that this was the single greatest second-place race in NCAA Wrestling history.

Teams like Missouri, Nebraska, and Ohio State had their sights set on a podium finish. In reality, none of them even cracked the top seven.

But instead of me blabbing on about things other than Penn State, let’s look at how each of the Nittany Lions’ finished the 2024 NCAA’s and add some perspective.


125
Braeden Davis

Penn State Wrestling
Penn State’s Braeden Davis wrestles Ohio State’s Vinny Kilkeany in their 125-pound bout on Feb. 2, 2024, in State College, Pa. The Nittany Lions won, 28-9.

Record: 2-2
Finish: Round of 12

Were their some lofty expectations thrown on true freshman Braeden Davis?

Absolutely. Because when you start for Penn State there are immediate expectations.

But in Davis’ case, I think those were turned up to 11 following him winning a Big Ten title and then being seeded as the No. 1 guy at 125.

In the end Braeden is a true freshman. And true freshman sometimes make mistakes and they sometimes don’t perform like seasoned veterans.

This is even before you consider Davis was likely the third option going into this season at lightweight. Most people would have expected a return from Robbie Howard or a repeat of Gary Steen at this spot.

The entire 125 bracket was madness in the end anyway. Davis’ 3-2 loss in the quarterfinals was at the hands of the eventual champion at 125. And Arizona State’s Richard Figueroa was the No. 8 seed.

Braeden Davis for sure used his time in the 2024 NCAA Championships as a learning experience. And just like everyone else in the Penn State wrestling room, he will continue to work hard and get better each day.

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133
Aaron Nagao

Record: 3-2
Finish: Round of 12

Just like with Davis, Aaron Nagao also had some high expectations on his shoulders this season.

But this was not due to his performance in the 2024 Big Ten’s or a high seed going into the tournament. No, his expectations were centered around what he did last season as a freshman at Minnesota.

Nagao finished last year as the fourth best wrestler at 133 pounds. And once he transferred into the room at Penn State this offseason, you could feel the expectations ramp up to NCAA champion or at least a podium finish.

Unfortunately, neither ended up happening. Nor did Aaron finish as an All-American for the second straight season.

Yes this can seem like it was a disappointing year but everyone needs to remember something. Just prior to the season it was released that Nagao suffered an injury and it looked like his entire year would be gone.

So none of us truly know the severity of extend of the injury and how it played out as the season progressed.

Another thing to realize is that Nagao transferred to Penn State in the offseason. Which means he wasn’t even with the program for 7 months before the season started.

Next year Aaron Nagao with be only a junior. And I for one would like to see what he’s really capable of when he’s had a full season training with the Nittany Lions.

Because as much as his finish was a bit disappointing for Nittany Lion fans, I guarantee the finish was incredibly disappointing to Aaron Nagao.


141
Beau Bartlett

Penn State Wrestling
Penn State Wrestling standout Beau Bartlett (Scott Pilutik For NittanyCentral)

Record: 4-1
Finish: 2nd

Going into the 2024 Big Ten Championships, Bartlett compiled a perfect record of 18-0. And after making his way to the finals, it looked like no one could stop him.

However Ohio State’s Jesse Mendez upended Beau with a late takedown to ruin his perfect season and prevent him from winning his first Big Ten title. As everyone now knows, this is pretty much exactly how the 2024 NCAA Championships played out in the 141 bracket.

Both Bartlett and Mendez were dominant in their first four matches. Which meant they would be squaring off again in a postseason finals. With how both of these guys wrestled, I felt for sure Beau would avenge his loss from the Big Ten’s.

Only that’s not how it played out. For the second straight time Mendez was the one who ended the match with a late takedown.

Deep down the loss had to be gutting for Bartlett. But you would never have noticed that when he and Mendez shook hands at the end. Beau is an amazing competitor who is a gracious winner and an even more gracious in defeat.

Questions about whether or not he will return for his final year in Happy Valley are still out there. And I haven’t heard anything either way at this point.

But how sweet would it be for Beau Bartlett to return for another season and win a title. For a guy who started out as a true freshman bumping up a weight and not qualifying for the NCAA’s, to then finish third, and now runner-up, it would be incredible for him to be the final guy standing on the mat with his hand raised in the NCAA Championships.


149
Tyler Kasak

Record: 7-1
Finish: 3rd

Tyler Kasak pulled off one of the most difficult feats in all of college wrestling.

The lost his first round matchup against a lower seeded wrestler and then proceeded to rip off seven straight wins in the consolation bracket to finish in third place at 149 pounds.

To put that in perspective, the most recent guy to accomplish this is Iowa State’s David Carr. As the No. 1 seed at 157 in the 2022 NCAA’s, Carr dropped his opening round match and then stormed back to win seven matches to claim third.

And Carr is now a two-time NCAA champion and four-time All-American with his lowest finish the aforementioned third in 2022.

So that just gives you an idea of the caliber of wrestler it takes to do it.

The other factor to consider is that Kasak wasn’t even supposed to be a starter this year. He started out as Beau’s backup at 141 and then was called into duty to fill in for All-American Shayne Van Ness following his season ending injury.

If Bartlett ends up coming back next year and Van Ness is fully recovered, I have no idea what the coaching staff will do with Kasak.

But I can say this with certainty, if Tyler Kasak is the starter somewhere next year, he will be a force to reckon with.


157
Levi Haines

Penn State Wrestling
The 2024 Penn State Wrestling Team. (Photo by Scott Pilutik, For NittanyCentral)

Record: 5-0
Finish: 1st

Look, it was plain and simple. No one was going to stop Levi Haines this year.

And I’m not saying there weren’t any bumps in the road to his title. Because there were several early in the season. But that’s exactly why the NCAA Championships take place at the end of the year and not at the beginning.

Levi now follows up a runner-up finish as a true freshman last year, to now hoisting his first NCAA title.

On the season, Haines compiled a perfect record of 23-0 and he nearly doubled his bonus point percentage from last season (34% to 65%).

Exactly where Levi will end up in the lineup next year might be the only question he has (he might bump up to 165). Because Levi Haines is a wrestler with seemingly no weaknesses and if he continues to improve in the wrestling room, then this will be the first of many titles for the talented Nittany Lion.


165
Mitchell Mesenbrink

Penn State Wrestling
Penn State Wrestling star MItchell Messenbrink.

Record: 4-1
Finish: 2nd

When Mitchell Mesenbrink transferred to Penn State last April, there were quite a few Nittany Lion fans who weren’t sure what Cael Sanderson and the team was getting. But that quickly changed when Mesenbrink took to the mat for his first handful of matches.

Here are his results from the first three dual meet matches:
-Technical Fall
-Fall
-Technical Fall

Mitchell’s relentless energy on the mat earned him the nickname “Psycho” and it was fitting.

Mesenbrink blew through the regular season in winning titles at the Journeyman Classic and Black Knight Invite. Then he went perfect through the dual meet season and won his first Big Ten title in dramatic fashion over Wisconsin’s Dean Hamiti in the final.

Psycho’s torrid pace continued in the 2024 NCAA Championships and all eyes were on a possible Mitchell Mesenbrink/Keegan O’Toole final. Unfortunately for both O’Toole and Mesenbrink, David Carr had other ideas.

Did David Carr stall his face off in the finals? Sure he did. But sometimes that’s what happens in folksyle, plus it’s up to the referee to call it.

In the end the referee did not and as a result Mitchell came up just short. However I’m not so sure that will be the case down the road.

Mitchell Mesenbrink will continue to push everyone he wrestles against. And he will push himself to keep improving. As he said in his interview following the Big Ten’s, it’s always working towards the next thing and the next thing.

And the next thing on Mitchell Mesenbrink’s plate will for sure be an NCAA title in the near future.


174
Carter Starocci

Penn State Wrestling
Carter Starocci of Penn State Wrestling (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire)

Record: 5-0
Finish: 1st

I can’t believe what I just witnessed over the last several days.

And rather than let a mediocre wrestling writer try to explain it, how about someone who knows what they’re talking about.

On Saturday night Carter Starocci became Penn State Wrestling’s first ever four-time NCAA Champion. And as everyone knows, prior to that night there were only five guys who ever did that.

Obviously we also know there are now seven guys who are on that list as Aaron Brooks is a four-time champion.

Assuming this is Starocci’s final year for the Nittany Lions, he ends his career with a 93-4 overall record, has two Big Ten titles, is a four-time All-American, and a four-time NCAA Champion. And two of those four title came when he had a broken hand and only one leg (this year).

Putting his Nittany Lion career in perspective is going to be very difficult when compared to guys like David Taylor, Zain Retherford, Bo Nickal, and even his teammate, Aaron Brooks.

But one thing is 100% for sure, Carter Starocci is a Penn State legend and he will be forever remembered by the Nittany Lion nation is one of the best to wear the blue and white singlet.


184
Bernie Truax

Record: 5-2
Finish: 5th

Truax finishes his impressive collegiate wrestling career as a four-time All-American. Granted three of those years he was in California wrestling for Cal Poly, but at the end of the day he was an instrumental piece to the 2024 Penn State Wrestling team.

Bernie dropped a difficult match in the quarterfinals and rather than throwing in the towel, he wrestled his tail off to come back and finish in fifth.

I realize it would have been fitting to see Traux finish in fourth place for the fourth time in his career, however it just wasn’t to be.

Bernie Truax’s time in Happy Valley comes to a close and he can ride off into the sunset with his head held high.


197
Aaron Brooks

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

Record: 5-0
Finish: 1st

To summarize the finish to Aaron Brooks‘ career at Penn State, I’m going to use a famous quote from Thanos:

“I am inevitable”

And in this case Brooks’ was for sure inevitable.

Brooks was going come out to the mat and he was going to crush the soul of every single wrestler he faced.

He capped off his Nittany Lion career by winning his fourth NCAA title. To go along with that, he has a career record of 89-3, he’s a four-time Big Ten Champion, and he’s obviously a four-time All-American.

Aaron’s final season in the blue and white was simply a masterpiece on the mat. Brooks went 22-0 and is now No. 6 on the all-time season bonus win percentage list at 90.91%.

What everyone witnessed this season from Brooks is going to culminate in him being named the 2024 Dan Hodge Trophy winner. And if he doesn’t win it, then it will be a highway robbery.

Aaron Brooks is a Nittany Lion all-time great and he’s cemented himself in the history book at both Penn State and the NCAA. The only left behind is for him to topple the rest of the world in international competitions and the Olympics.


285
Greg Kerkvliet

Penn State Wrestling
Greg Kerkvliet in action for Penn State Wrestling during the 2023 season.

Record: 5-0
Finish: 1st

Kerkvliet has overcome many hurdles in his college career.

It started with his miraculous comeback to even be able to take the mat his freshman year. And against all of those odds the talented big man took seventh place and was named an All-American.

Then he finished in fourth place the following year, all while battling a leg injury and having to wrestle beasts the likes of Gable Steveson and Mason Parris.

Last year Kerk put together his most complete season to-date, put unfortunately the 2023 Hodge Trophy winner was also wrestling at 285. The runner-up finish in the 2023 NCAA’s had to sting. However everyone knew it would be a matter of time before the supremely talented mountain of an athlete would break through.

And that just happened to be this year.

Kerkvliet took home his first Big Ten title, he finished the year a perfect 20-0, he became a four-time All-American, and he snagged the first NCAA title of his career.

There are plenty of up and coming youngsters at 285. But until Greg Kerkvliet’s eligibility runs out, none of them are going to stand between him and a second straight title next year.

MORE: The Definitive Mount Rushmore of Nittany Lion Wrestling

Penn State Wrestling
Celebrate Penn State Winning the National Championship in the official NIttany Lions’ National Champions t-shirt!

 

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