Ranking Penn State Wrestling Transfer Portal Signings That Will Define a New Era of Domination - 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

Ranking Penn State Wrestling Transfer Portal Signings That Will Define a New Era of Domination

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock or recently been on a darkness retreat with Aaron Rodgers, then you’ve seen the wave of transfers Cael Sanderson and Penn State Wrestling have picked up.

In late November, former Cornell commit Erik Gibson and his younger brother, Mason, announced they were flipping from the Big Red to the Nittany Lions. Then on April 19, former Cal Poly standout Bernie Truax said he was going cross-country to join the Penn State Wrestling team.

At this point it seemed like things were going to calm down as Gibson added depth in the middle weights and Traux was going to fill a hole at either 184 or 197.


Two days after the Truax news broke, the reigning US Open champion and silver medalist in the U20 Worlds, Mitchell Mesenbrink, picked the Nittany Lions over a host of other schools vying for his wrestling abilities.

Surely this had to be the last one, right?

Cue Tom Brands and Cael Sanderson in a script reading for “Once Upon A Time In Hollywood”:

Brands: “All right, that’s too hot. Anything we can do about the heat?”
Sanderson: “Tom, it’s a flamethrower.”

Which then led to former Minnesota All-American Aaron Nagao breaking the internet as he announced his commitment to Cael Sanderson and the Nittany Lions on April 25th.


Ranking Penn State Wrestling Transfer Portal Additions

So, with all of the recent transfers let’s take a deeper dive into the impact of each commitment and their subsequent fit into Penn State’s loaded roster. And for each of the categories I will be rating both the “impact” and the “lineup fit” based on a scale of one to 10 dodgeballs.

Erik Gibson

Projected weight: 157/165

Gibson originally committed to Cornell in December 2021, but due to multiple reports it appeared he never actually made it to Ithaca. Questions started to circle about Erik’s future along with his younger brother, Mason, who was also committed to Cornell.

Well the mystery was finally solved when the brothers officially flipped their commitment to Penn State in late November 2022.

In high school, Erik was a do it all grappler for Bishop McCort and he was a state place finisher in each of his first two seasons. However due to a postseason banned handed down to Bishop McCort, Gibson was unable to wrestle for them his junior and senior seasons.

While his high school wrestling career was over, Gibson’s career on the mat certainly wasn’t. Erik finished as a three time Fargo All-American and a U.S. Marines Junior National All-American in both Greco Roman and freestyle.

It looks like Gibson could slot in at either 157 or 165, but unfortunately for him, the middle weights in the Nittany Lion Wrestling room are jam packed. Between Levi Haines, Terrell Barraclough, Tyler Kasak (No. 25 2023 class), Joe Lee, Matt Lee, and Alex Facundo, there’s simply not a lot of space. But in the end, the best wrestlers always rise to the top.

Impact: 7/10 dodgeballs
Lineup fit: 4/10 dodgeballs

Bernie Truax

Projected weight: 184/197

When Truax announced he was fulfilling a childhood dream by joining the Nittany Lions, it was also a dream-get for the Penn State faithful. Because former NCAA Champion Max Dean’s departure following the 2023 Championships left a massive hole at the back end of the lineup.

Bernie was a three time All-American for Cal Poly and he will have one year of eligibility while in Happy Valley. Truax took home his first All-American honors during the 2020-2021 season by finishing fourth in the 2021 NCAA Championships at 174. And he continued to churn out All-American finishes by also finishing fourth in the 2022 NCAA’s (184) and the 2023 NCAA’s (197).

The only lingering question is where Traux will slot in with the Nittany Lions.

Clearly, 197 is up for grabs, but there’s a possibility three time NCAA Champion Aaron Brooks could be bumping up there for his final season on the mat. News out of the Penn State camp was that Brooks struggled at times last year in maintaining weight at 184.

But in either case, Bernie Truax will be locked and loaded SOMEWHERE in the Penn State lineup for the 2023-2024 season.

Impact: 9/10 dodgeballs
Lineup fit: 10/10 dodgeballs

Mitchell Mesenbrink

Projected weight: 157/165

The hits kept on coming for the Nittany Lions when Mitchell Mesenbrink released a statement to BaschAMania indicating his intentions to matriculate to Happy Valley.

Mesenbrink doesn’t have a ton of college experience as he competed in two matches for the Cal Baptist Lancers where he was 2-0 with both wins by fall. Mitchell was also the No. 12 overall recruit in the class of 2022.

But, it’s on the world stage where Mesenbrink turned some heads last year.

In 2022, Mesenbrink took home the silver medalist honors at the U20 Worlds at 70 kg. And on his way to winning last year’s US Open, Mitchell bested fellow Nittany Lion, Levi Haines, twice to take home the title and make the world team.

However, the biggest question surrounding Mesenbrink is where he fits into the Penn State lineup. And while I understand that this is the same conundrum Erik Gibson is in, I’m going to say Mitchell hits the mat first between the two.

And this is not a knock on Gibson at all, he has as much talent and potential as anyone in the wrestling room. Put it this way, if you tied his arms behind his back and threw him into a ring with me holding a baseball bat, there’s only one guy headed to the hospital. And that’s not Erik Gibson.

Call this intuition or call it a hunch, but I think Mesenbrink is possibly the future for the Nittany Lions at 157. Which could be as soon as this year if Penn State decides to redshirt Haines, although I believe this isn’t likely. What’s more likely is for Mitchell to take over at 157 the following season when Levi moves up to 165.

Impact: 8/10 dodgeballs
Lineup fit: 6/10 dodgeballs

Aaron Nagao

Projected weight: 133

This one was honestly a shock as I thought for sure Nagao was headed to Iowa City.

Thank goodness I’m wrong a lot.

And this transfer is fantastic for the Nittany Lion faithful and for Aaron Nagao, because in the end he made the correct decision in choosing Penn State for his wrestling future. Which is certainly bright for the redshirt sophomore.

Nagao is fresh off an All-American finish in the 2023 NCAA Championships (133) and he is projected to remain at this weight class for the near future. It’s also not out of the realm of possibility that he bumps up to 141 when Beau Bartlett runs out of eligibility in two years.

If this is the case then it would make more room for Braeden Davis (No. 16 2003 class), Mason Gibson (No. 8 2024 class), and Luke Lilledahl (No. 2 2024 class) at the lower weight classes.

But for the very near term, Nagao is a much needed addition at 133 and he will further push guys like Baylor Shunk, Gary Steen, Karl Shindledecker, and Marco Vespa in the wrestling room.

Impact: 9/10 dodgeballs
Lineup fit: 10/10 dodgeballs
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