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Penn State wrestling transfer portal: Nittany Lions gearing up for a three-peat

Cael Sanderson has added several key transfer portal additions to help Penn State wrestling make a run at another three-peat next season.



Penn State wrestling transfer portal additions
Mar 18, 2023; Tulsa, OK, USA; Penn State head coach Cael Sanderson hugs Penn State wrestler Carter Starocci after he defeated Nebraska wrestler Mikey Labriola in the 174 pound weight class finals match during the NCAA Wrestling Championships at the BOK Center. Mandatory Credit: Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports

Spring is recruiting season for much of college athletics. James Franklin now has two recruiting classes in the top five nationally as the football program looks to follow up a Rose Bowl run in 2022. Mike Rhoades is hitting the transfer portal hard to rebuild a depleted Nittany Lion basketball roster. But a short drive on Curtain Road across campus, it’s Cael Sanderson who’s perhaps having the best April. With another new name added to the roster Monday, several Penn State wrestling transfer portal additions have put Sanderson’s squad on a path to make another run at history.

Penn State wrestling transfer portal additions bolster Lions’ three-peat odds

As a team, the 2022-23 season was yet another display of dominance for Penn State wrestling. The Lions finished the dual-meet season 16-0, the sixth undefeated year in Sanderson’s tenure. Penn State followed up a strong regular season with a dominant showing in the Big Ten Championships, winning the program’s seventh conference title and automatically qualifying nine wrestlers for the NCAA Tournament. In Tulsa, Penn State capped off a phenomenal season by winning the program’s 10th National Championship in 12 years.

After winning back-to-back championships, Penn State wrestling will look to three-peat for the third time in the last decade next season. But, there are questions the Lions will have to answer to make history. And Cael Sanderson has used the transfer portal to find several key additions to help the Lions do just that. Here’s an introduction to the latest transfer portal additions for Penn State wrestling:

Bernie Truax IV

While Penn State had eight All-Americans on last year’s squad, there are several key pieces that need to be filled. Max Dean’s graduation leaves an open spot at 197 pounds. Aaron Brooks could bump up from 184 to wrestle in this weight class, but it’s still to be determined if he or Carter Starocci (174 pounds) will take an Olympic redshirt season this year.

With this in mind, Sanderson added former Cal Poly wrestler and three-time All-American Bernie Traux IV to the roster via the portal last week. Over the last three seasons, Traux IV has placed fourth at nationals wrestling at 174 (2021), 184 (2022), and 197 pounds (2023). Traux IV gives Penn State versatility at several key weight classes pending the decisions of Brooks and Starocci. With two years left to wrestle at Penn State, Traux IV is fulfilling a lifelong ambition, saying “it has been a dream of mine to wrestle for this program,” following the commitment.

Mitchell Mesenbrink

The Nittany Lions then looked to add depth by landing Mitchell Mesenbrink from the portal over the weekend. A two-time Wisconsin state champion, Mesenbrink was the 12th overall recruit in the class of 2022. However, he only wrestled in two matches at 165 pounds for Cal Baptist this season. Mesenbrink chose Penn State after visiting Michigan, Missouri, and Ohio State.

It’s unclear where exactly Mesenbrink will slot into the roster for the 2024 season. The Lions have two solid starters in Alex Facundo at 165 and Levi Haines, who put together a remarkable true freshman season, at 157. However, Mesenbrink has stated that he is open to an Olympic redshirt and trusts Sanderson and the Penn State coaching staff to decide what’s best for him next year.

Aaron Nagao

On Monday, Sanderson used the transfer portal to fill one of Penn State’s most pressing needs for next season. The Lions lose multi-time national champion Roman Bravo-Young from the lineup at 133 pounds.  However, this spot will be immediately filled by All-American Aaron Nagao, who is transferring to Penn State from Minnesota.

Nagao, who went 23-6 last season, finished second at the Big Ten Championships to Bravo-Young at 133. The former Golden Gopher picked Penn State over fellow wrestling powerhouses Iowa and Iowa State. He will have sophomore eligibility for the Nittany Lions.

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A third-generation Penn Stater, Matt is Editor-in-Chief for Basic Blues Nation, co-host of the podcast PSU Tailgate Talk, and a credentialed member of the Penn State football media. Matt also works as a staffer in the Pennsylvania General Assembly. Matt lives in central Pennsylvania with his wife and a small army of pets.


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