2023-24 Penn State Wrestling

Mitchell Mesenbrink Settling In With Penn State Wrestling

Mitchell Mesenbrink Settling In With Penn State Wrestling

With his high-octane offense, U20 World champ Mitchell Mesenbrink is adapting well to his first season as a starter with the Penn State wrestling team.

Jan 10, 2024 by Travis Johnson
Mitchell Mesenbrink Settling In With Penn State Wrestling

Cross-country road trips are nothing new for Mitchell Mesenbrink, but there was something unique about his latest coast-to-coast wrestling journey.

Penn State’s weekend excursion to Corvallis, Oregon gave the Nittany Lion newcomer a chance to connect with his teammates in ways he hadn’t yet.

“I got a lot closer with these guys,” Mesenbrink said in a radio interview after Penn State’s win over Oregon State on Friday. “There’s so much going on back home all the time, family things, to practices, to school, you don’t always get to have quality time with these guys.”

Mesenbrink has had to adjust to new surroundings since transferring from Cal Baptist near Los Angeles before the season. In between he spent time back home in Wisconsin before making the move to State College.

Once he arrived, Mesenbrink went about establishing himself as one of the more inquisitive rookies in the room. Now, midway through the season, he’s emerged as a high-energy 165-pounder who’s pushed the pace in every match and gotten results.

Mesenbrink leads all Penn State wrestlers with 10 wins and is tied with three-time NCAA champion Carter Starocci for the team lead with 16 dual meet points.

“He's willing to go to different coaches and different guys on the team, and then he'll turn around right away and he'll walk right back on the mat and try it,” Penn State associated head coach Cody Sanderson said. “And so guys like that end up improving at a really fast rate and it's actually a lot more rare than you might think.”

But it wasn’t necessarily unexpected from Mesenbrink, who Penn State coaches watched win the 2023 U20 World Champion at 74 kilograms. He won silver the year before at 70 kg.

Sanderson is looking forward to the coming stretch to see how Mesenbrink handles some of the Big Ten’s 165-pounders. He’s coming off a one-sided win against #12 Matthew Olguin. Mesenbrink beat the Oregon State fifth-year senior by technical fall, 17-2 in just 3:44. 

It was the fourth former NCAA tournament qualifier Mesenbrink has hammered this season. He also teched Lehigh’s Jake Logan and Binghamton’s Brevin Cassella and pinned Rutgers’ Anthony White.

“I think there's there's a confidence in there with him,” Sanderson said. “There's also an understanding that he knows if he wants to be better and beat the best guys, he needs to figure out how to score as many ways as possible. And everyone knows that, but not everybody is willing to go out there and do it and he is.”

Other Youngsters Rising

Mesenbrink isn’t the only underclassmen chipping in lately.

Penn State has also gotten contributions from 125-pounder Braeden Davis and 149-pounder Tyler Kasak. For now, they appear to be the team’s best options at those weights.

Although injuries have limited other wrestlers, Sanderson said Penn State’s staff will be patient as the season wears on. Davis and Kasak could still redshirt as they haven’t yet reached their allotted number of competitions before they’d no longer be able to use a redshirt this season.

Davis is 9-0 and coming off his best win of the season — an 11-6 win over former NCAA qualifier Brandon Kaylor. He can wrestle in one more event and still keep his redshirt this season.

But with Robbie Howard still on the mend, Davis appears to be coming on at the right time.

“I think he has provided a spark,” Sanderson said. “He's excited to be out there. He's a true freshman and he's all of a sudden competing with a guy that's ranked pretty high in the country. So you know, it's nice to have him coming off the mat excited.”

Meanwhile, Kasak is 2-0 since jumping in for the injured Shayne Van Ness. Kasak can still compete twice more before Penn State will have to decide whether to pull his redshirt or not. 

Like Davis, his abilities might make that decision easier one way or the other. Like Mesenbrink, he’s absorbent at all times.

He needed to be to pull out a 4-1 win over Oregon State’s Nash Singleton, who defended and frustrated Kasak’s offense until the third period.

“We gave him specific instructions and he went right out and followed them and just finished right where he needed to be,” Sanderson said. “That's another thing we look out for young guys. If we get that opportunity to communicate with them during the match, do they know what's going on? Can they listen and hear and then go apply it? And he was able to do that.”

No Frustration

Levi Haines has had to battle back in a few matches this season, but the 157-pound star isn’t worried about opponents closing the gap on him.

If anything, he’s only been encouraged by his own ability to bounce back.

“Obviously, you never want to find yourself down in a match, but sometimes it’s just the way it is and I think it is good experience,” Haines said. “It’s a good feeling knowing that I’m able to wrestle back from being down like that.”

Last season’s NCAA runner-up found himself scrambling back against Oregon State’s Isaiah Crosby. The Beaver senior built up a 7-3 lead heading into the third before Haines battled back with a pair of takedowns and a dominant ride to win 10-8.

Haines said he “just kind of got in (his) groove a little bit better” late in the match.

“It was also really good to see him still be down in the third period and just kind of shake it off and go get the points,” Sanderson said. “You know, that's what a champion does.”

No Worries For Brooks

Star Aaron Brooks is feeling fine after bumping his head in his Friday bout against Oregon State’s Justin Rademacher. 

Brooks was down for a bit on the mat but was able to finish out the 19-4 technical fall win. He was back on the mat in practice Monday.

“They got him right back out there,” Sanderson said. “I didn't even see a hint of hesitation from him.”