Penn State Wrestling Predictions for the 2024 NCAA Championships - 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 Predictions for the 2024 NCAA Championships

Penn State Wrestling has sights set on a third straight NCAA title and here are three predictions for the upcoming 2024 NCAA Championships.

The official tournament brackets were released Wednesday evening, and we are now officially one week out from the 2024 NCAA Wrestling Championships.

At this point in Cael Sanderson’s tenure at Penn State it’s almost impossible to make any “Bold predictions”. When a team has been this dominant for this long it’s hard to even come up with anything.

I mean I could predict that Mitchell Mesenbrink will spend an entire evening at a McDonald’s and then announce he’s bumping up to 285 pounds for the tournament. Outside of this not being possible as the brackets have already been released, I guarantee some Nittany Lions fans are nodding their heads at the computer screen saying, “Yeah, I could see that.”

So instead of bold predictions, how about I come up with three straight up, reasonable predictions.

Sound fair?


3 Penn State Wrestling Predictions for NCAA Championships

No. 1 – Aaron Nagao will make the finals at 133

“Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. Chris, pump the breaks man!”

Yes, I do know that Aaron Nagao came in last night as the No. 10 seed. But it’s not uncommon for double digit and lower seeds to not only make the finals, but also win titles.

Back in 2019 Mekhi Lewis won the 165 title as the No. 8 seed. Cody Brewer won a title as the No. 14 seed in 2015 and way back in 1994, Oklahoma State’s March Branch won a title and he was unseeded.

So yes, lower seeds can make deep runs. However I’m not picking Nagao to make a deep run simply because it’s happened in the past. Nope. I think he can make a deep run this year because I believe he has some favorable matchups in his bracket.

Nagao’s first round matchup is against UVA’s No. 23 seed Marlon Yarbrough. And in the second round he would get the winner of No. 7 Nasir Baily (LR) and No. 26 Kade Moore (MIZZ). It’s not a bit of a stretch to believe Aaron can power through both of these rounds.

Then in the quarterfinals Nagao would have a rematch against No. 2 Ryan Crookham (LEH). Did Crookham beat Nagao earlier this season and did he have a heck of a season?

Yes and yes.

But that was then and this is now. Crookham escaped Rec Hall with a 6-4 decision over Nagao in early December. And since then, Nagao has wrestled an infinitely more difficult schedule than Crookham and he has the advantage of seeing how Ryan wants to attack him. Both of these factors will play into the outcome.

And after Nagao takes down Ryan Crookham, he would then most likely square off against NC State’s No. 3 seed Kai Orine.

While Orine had a fine season himself, he did drop back-to-back matches to Nic Bouzakis (fall) and Daton Fix (11-3) in the middle of the season. Orine and Nagao also locked horns in the consolation bracket in the 2023 NCAA Championships. Nagao got the better of Orine 5-4 and he knows what he needs to do to win again.

Now, if Aaron Nagao does makes the finals, then I also predict this is where his magical run will end. Because Daton Fix came back this year to do one thing. And that’s to win a title.

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

No. 2 – Aaron Brooks and Michael Beard will meet in the semifinals. And it will be an amazing match.

Has anyone come close to pushing Aaron Brooks on the mat this year?

Not really.

Mainly this is due to the fact that Brooks is wrestling at an incredible level. And the fact that the Big Ten isn’t as strong at 197 than it is at other weight classes.

So there’s no reason to think Brooks won’t waltz into the semifinals. And if things go chalk in this bracket then he would face Lehigh’s No. 4 seed Michael Beard. Penn State fans certainly know who he is.

In the shortened 2021 season, Beard had an up and down year for the Nittany Lions before finishing as an All-American (seventh). Then Cael Sanderson went out and brought Max Dean to the room. A move that supplanted Beard’s spot in the lineup.

Beard stuck with the Nittany Lions for the 2021-2022 season and then transferred to Lehigh. And early in the 2022-2023 season Max Dean and Michael Beard duked it out on the mat.

Michael Beard came out with an energy and hunger that I had not seen from him before. Max Dean had no answer for Beard’s constant offense and he lost an 11-9 decision which wasn’t as close as the score indicated.

Was Beard simply that much better than Dean?

Dean did have his struggles at time last year, however I think he was the better grappler. Rather I think something else was at play with Beard’s performance. And that’s the tried and true formula of “motivation”.

Beard has quietly put together a very impressive campaign this year as he’s 26-1, has an 85% bonus point percentage, and he just walked his way through the competition to win his first EIWA conference title.

If Brooks and Beard both meet in the semifinals then you better believe both guys will be up for it. They know each other, they’ve trained in the same wrestling room, and they know what’s at stake.

And if this happens then I think it could really be one of the best matches of the entire tournament.


No. 3 – The race for 2nd place will be the greatest race in NCAA Wrestling history

If 2018 was possibly the greatest NCAA Championship title race in history, then 2024 might be the best race for second place.

Am I just giving the championship to the Nittany Lions? No, they will for sure have to earn it like they always do. But assuming their team bus actually shows up in Kansas City and there are no catastrophic outcomes, then Penn State should cruise to the team title.

But I think it’s very possible that the second place team could be any of the following teams:
NC State
Iowa State
Arizona State

There are eight teams fighting it out for one spot. And the dust on the team race may not be over until the final whistle blows in the final match of the 2024 NCAA Championships.

Any individual stumbles from guys on Iowa or NC State could open the door up for other teams. The margin is going to be RAZOR thin. And I for one can’t wait to watch it!

MORE: Key Takeaways, Penn State’s MVP from Big Ten Championships

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