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Penn State Wrestling

Penn State Wrestling: Why Redshirting Levi Haines Could Make Sense

Photo by Penn State Athletics: Levi Haines

It’s crazy to think that Penn State wrestling wouldn’t have Levi Haines in the fold this coming season.

Or is it?

He has two years of eligibility left and already has two Big Ten titles, a national runner-up and a national title on his resume.

So it makes a lot of sense for him to stay, and ultimately, if that’s what Haines, coach Cael Sanders and company what, that’s how it shall be.

To be clear, I’m not advocating for Haines to redshirt. But despite there being obvious cons— he’s the defending champ, after all— there are potential pros, too.

Here is why Levi Haines redshirting could make sense.


Pro No. 1: It worked for Zain Retherford

Retherford dominated as a true freshman for Penn State in 2013-14.

He went 27-0 in the regular season, then made it to the Big Ten championship at 133 pounds, where he fell to eventual four-time national champ Logan Stieber of Ohio State by four points.

In the NCAA’s, Retherford made it to the semifinals, eventually placing fifth and achieving All-American status.

So what became of Retherford in Year II?

Did he win a Big Ten or national title?

Did he have the dreaded “sophomore slump?”

The answer was non of the above.

Retherford redshirted his sophomore season, and came back two years later competing at 149 up from 133.

Over the next three seasons,  he won three national titles and two Dan Hodge Trophies, firmly placing himself into the discussion of “greatest Penn State wrestler of all time.”

Now. Haines case is different in 2024 than Retherford’s was in 2014.

Haines has wrestled two seasons as opposed to one and already has a national title.

At the same time, weight is always something to think about in wrestling, and bulking up requires time. If Haines takes time off to help get up to 174, it could pay off for him similar to the way it did for Retherford.

Pro No. 2: Rest

Although it hasn’t hindered him from becoming a star, Haines has dealt with injuries in his time at Penn State, battling through a torn meniscus as well as an injury suffered at the Journyman Collegiate Classic last November. Wrestling’s a grueling sport, and rest can always be beneficial.

Pro No. 3: Penn State would be OK

Penn State would be a better team this coming season with Levi Haines as opposed to without him.

With that said, the team has enough depth to win a national title regardless of what Haines, Cael Sanderson and co. decide to do.

If Haines redshirts, the most likely outcome would seem to be Mitchell Mesenbrink staying at 165, where he almost won a national title last season.

174 would be either Carter Starocci, if he doesn’t move up, or Alex Facundo, who will be coming back after an Olympic redshirt season.

Considering Facundo shut out Haines 6-0 at the Olympic Trials in Happy Valley this past April, it’s probably fair to say he’s capable.

Programs don’t become empires without depth, and because Penn State has plenty of it, the squad would be favored to run away with another national title even with Haines redshirted.

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