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 Secret Weapon: Unveiling Cael Sanderson’s Hidden Gems in 2023 Recruiting Class

I know this seems almost impossible, but Cael Sanderson‘s 2023 recruiting class for Penn State Wrestling flew a bit under the radar nationally. Not because it wasn’t good. Nope, far from it. The incoming recruiting class was very solid and it should go a long way in filling some holes down the road in the Nittany Lions‘ lineup. Rather, it didn’t quite have the firepower that the Hawkeyes and Wolverines brought in. Based on FloWrestling’s recruiting rankings, Tom Brands and Iowa landed three top 10 recruits (No. 5 Nate Jesuroga 125, No. 6 Gabe Arnold 174, No. 9 Ben Kueter 285) along with a top 45 recruit (No. 41 Ryder Block 141/149). Meanwhile, Michigan welcomed five top 40 recruits with four of them being ranked inside the top 25 (No. 15 Caden Horwath 133, No. 20 Hayden Walters 197/285, No. 21 Sergio Lemely 133/141, No. 22 Beau Mantanona 141/149, No. 38 Dylan Gilcher 149). Based on those two behemoth classes, it’s easy to see why the Nittany Lions came in with the third overall class in 2023. However, that doesn’t mean one or even two of those guys in the incoming class won’t make an immediate impact for Penn State in the coming season. Zain Retherford was a runner-up in the 2014 Big Ten’s and was an All-American (5th place) in the 2014 NCAA Championships as a true freshman. Aaron Brooks won a Big Ten title his true freshman campaign (2019-2020) and it’s very likely he would have made a deep run in the 2020 NCAA’s had they actually happened. Then just this past year, Levi Haines ripped off his redshirt in the center of the mat on the way to a 2023 Big Ten title and a runner-up finish in the 2023 NCAA Championships all while Hulk Hogan’s Real American theme song was playing in the background. Cael Sanderson has proven time and time again that he can get talented wrestlers on campus and he’s proven time and time again that he can have them ready immediately. So with that, let’s take a look at each of the incoming 2023 recruits, plot out the likelihood Penn State fans will see them in action, and predict which ones could be gamechangers for the upcoming 2023-2024 season. 

Cael Nasdeo

Recruiting rank: 18

Projected weight: 125

 Midway through the 2023 recruiting cycle Cael Nasdeo was a bit of an afterthought as the lightweight out of Williamsport wasn’t ranked inside the top 100. But, that quickly changed after what Nasdeo did on the mat in Cedar Falls this past spring. In the 2023 USA Wrestling Folkstyle Nationals held between March 31-April 1, Nasdeo completely marched through the 126 pound field on his way to the title. Cael won five straight matches which included a major decision, a technical fall, and three pins. And one of those pins was in the final as he turned Jake Castagneto’s back to the mat a mere 57 seconds into the match. Following a Pennsylvania Class AAA state championships at 121 this past year and his title in the 2023 USA Wrestling Folkstyle Nationals, Nasdeo shot all of the way up to No. 18 in the recruiting rankings. It’s clear Nasdeo is talented and it’s very evident that Penn State is in need of competitive wrestlers at 125 pounds. However, there are two factors at play in whether or not the Nittany Lion faithful will see Cael Nasdeo in the starting lineup this coming season. First and foremost, is Robbie Howard healthy and ready to take over the top spot again? If so, then he will most certainly be the guy for Penn State at the start of the lineup. The next factor is the sheer number of bodies in the wrestling room at 125. You have last year’s starter Gary Steen, recent transfer Kurt McHenry, and spot starters Karl Shindledecker and Marco Vespa. Even if Howard’s shoulder sidelines him for another year, it’s very possible Steen could be the starter again this year. Or it could be a rotating crew of Steen, McHenry, and Shindledecker at spots. Outside of competing in invitationals and opens, I do believe there is a chance the Nittany Lion nation can see Nasdeo suit up for a dual meet or two. Mainly due to the NCAA rules for redshirts, it seems like a certainty Nasdeo lands in the starting 10 at some point if the 125 slot resembles anything from last season. As for the impact Nasdeo could bring to Penn State if he cracks the starting squad? I believe if he transitions to college life and is able to improve in his short time in the wrestling room, then he has a good chance to make a big impact for the Nittany Lions. Of the eight 2023 All-Americans, five of them graduated. And this includes the reigning NCAA champion Patrick Glory and three-time NCAA champion Spencer Lee. Furthermore, six of the remaining top 12 finishers were either freshman or sophomores. So it’s not like the 125 field is going to be chock full of seasoned grapplers who’ve been there and done that for three or four seasons. Which could further help Nasdeo. But, I still think it’s a longshot that he will eventually be the starter next year as there are way too many factors involved. Chance Nasdeo sees dual action: 92%Chance Nasdeo is the starter: 12%Possible impact Nasdeo brings: 7/10 dodgeballs 


Braedan Davis

Recruiting rank: 16

Projected weight: 133

 During his recruiting process, Davis was being courted by a handful of powerhouse wrestling programs. Michigan, Oklahoma, Minnesota, and Oklahoma State all came to the door knocking but in the end Braeden answered only one call. Penn State Wrestling. Davis was a prized recruit out of Michigan as he took home a Fargo title in 2021 and he defeated Leo DeLuca to win the Who’s Number One that year. And in high school, Braedan became just the fifth wrestler in Michigan state history to win four straight individual state titles and be on a team that won four straight team titles. But Davis’ big issue going into next year has nothing to do with his ability and talent. Prior to 2023 All-American Aaron Nagao transferring from Minnesota to Penn State, I figured Braedan would have a good shot at seeing some action at 133 pounds. But again, that was before Nagao made his wise decision to be coached by Cael Sanderson. So now Braedan Davis is sitting behind an All-American who has three years of eligibility, a log jam of grapplers at 125, and the reigning third place finisher in the 2023 NCAA Championships at 141 pounds. But this in no way is a bad thing. Davis’ body type would best suit him to compete at 133 or even 141 pounds down the road in college. And what better thing to do than compete against both Nagao and Bartlett in the wrestling room on a daily basis. My best guess is that Nagao will man the 133 slot for a season or two and once Bartlett runs out of eligibility two years from now, he may slot up to 141. Which would allow for an experienced and improved Davis to hit the mat in the starting lineup his redshirt sophomore season. Which means that outside of tournaments and opens, I doubt the Penn State faithful will see Davis in dual meet action this coming season. Chance Davis sees dual action: 14%Chance Davis is the starter: 1%Possible impact Davis brings: 5/10 dodgeballs 

Tyler Kasak

Recruiting rank: 25

Projected weight: 157


Kasak falls into a similar category as Braedan Davis. A super competitive wrestler but no room on the current roster for him to make many appearances other than in tournaments and invitationals. Tyler was a former grappler for Bethlehem Catholic where he had Pennsylvania state finishes of fifth his freshman year, first his sophomore year, and third his junior year. And when he made his college decision late in the spring of 2020, there was little doubt as to which program he would commit to. Kasak has trained with David Taylor for a handful of years at his M2 Training Center and he even wore a singlet with Levi Haines’ name on the back of it when he took down Joel Adams to win the 65 kg title in the U17 World Team Trials. But winning the U17 wasn’t the only title Tyler brought home last year. He also bested the competition at the 2022 Ironman, Beast of the East, and Escape the Rock tournaments. If I’ve said it once then I will say it a thousand times, if Cael Sanderson wants you to wrestle for him then there’s a pretty highly probability that you’re good. And yes, Tyler Kasak does fit this bill. But just between the 157 and 165 weight classes, the Nittany Lions have a total of nine wrestlers on their roster. And between Levi Haines, Terrell Barraclough, Mitch Mesenbrink, and Alex Facundo there’s very little room to squeeze another grappler into the mix. So my guess is that Tyler will see plenty of action, only it will be in the Black Knight Open, Clarion Open, Mat Town Open, and Southern Scuffle. And it will involve him preserving his redshirt. Which will certainly work out later in his career because if Kasak puts in the work in the wrestling room and improves on the mat, then there will absolutely be room for him in the starting lineup. It’s just that this coming year probably won’t be the year. Chance Kasak sees dual action: 4%Chance Kasak is the starter: 0.6%Possible impact Kasak brings: 4/10 dodgeballs 

Josh Barr

Recruiting rank: 8

Projected weight: 174

 And here we have finally landed on the remaining ranked grappler committed to the Nittany Lions in the 2023 recruiting cycle. By most recruiting services, Josh Barr was Cael Sanderson’s centerpiece of the 2023 class for a plethora of reasons. You want accolades and titles? Barr is a four-time Michigan state D-1 champion, he was on two D-1 championships winning teams, he is the reigning two-time Fargo Freestyle champion, he participated in the 2022 Junior World Team Trials Challenge, and he compiled a record of 131-1 during this time. And in April Josh was awarded the Michigan Wrestling Association Mr. Wrestler for 2023. Sounds like a checkmark in the “Yes” column to me. How about someone with an elite work ethic? In a Burton View article  Zac Hall (Barr’s high school coach at Davison) talked about his work ethic and what type of wrestler Penn State was getting. “(Josh) is a head down, nose to the grindstone kind of young man who is motivated to outwork anyone at any time,” Hall said in his nomination of Barr for Mr. Wrestler. “He will never back down from a challenge, shows grit and wants everyone around him to succeed…We expect many more great things out of Josh as he gets ready for NCAA Big Ten wrestling at Penn State University.” That sounds like another “Yes” as well. But here’s the difference between Josh Barr and the other guys on this list; he occupies a weight class that is currently held down by a three-time NCAA champion and there’s a ton of uncertainty about what Carter Starocci will do this coming season. With the Olympics in 2024 and with Starocci possibly being hampered by an injury suffered in the 2023 US Open Wrestling Championships, there’s a very good possibility Nittany Lion fans see Barr in a blue and white singlet wrestling in Rec Hall this year. And this isn’t to say Cael Nasdeo, Braedan Davis, and Tyler Kasak aren’t as good as Barr. Because that isn’t the case. One of the biggest things that stands in the way between a highly competitive athlete who trains his tail off and a championship is “opportunity”. And Josh Barr could have a huge opportunity dropped into his lap this coming season if Starocci opts out of college wrestling. The only remaining question is “Will Josh Barr be ready to answer the call”? Chance Barr sees dual action: 92%Chance Barr is the starter: 49%Possible impact Barr brings: 9/10 dodgeballs 

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Chris Snyder
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