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‘I’ll Be Ready for all of It’: Penn State’s Carter Starocci Wants Olympic, MMA Glory

Carter Starocci
Photo by Michigan Athletics (Sam Janicki): Carter Starocci

Penn State wrestler Carter Starocci knows how to give a good quote. 

He showed that earlier this year in his entertaining response to Iowa commit Gabe Arnold calling him “overrated.”

He showed it again days later on Twitter when he vowed revenge on Indiana’s DJ Washington for being the only wrestler to beat Starocci in a regular-season dual meet (he ended up getting it was a convincing win over Washington that featured post-match fireworks).

So when No. 1 Starocci beat No. 2 Mikey Labriola to win his third national championship, it wasn’t surprising that his post-match interview wasn’t dull. 

Starocci covered multiple topics in less than a minute and a half. 

He talked about what his time at Penn State has meant to him.

“Everyone at Penn State’s my family,” Starocci said.

And what does that family mean to him?

“I couldn’t put it into words,” Starocci said. “Just my coaches, my team, my family, my support. I mean, it means the world to me. I mean, I know we’ve talked about it a lot, but I don’t think you guys will understand what it’s like to be with all of our coaches, our team. It’s something you have to experience to understand that power and that love that’s within this program.”

Starocci was then asked by ESPN, “how does that manifest itself onto the mat on championship Saturday night?

It was here that Starocci offered the quote of the interview. 

“I think that’s what big balls look like,” Starocci said. “You know what I mean? I think it feels good being a three-timer. I just joined elite company with Penn State… but that’s not where this train stops. It keeps going forward. I’ll be back in the gym on Monday. So, dreams don’t work unless you do.”

Despite having eligibility left, Starocci indicated that he had just wrestled his last match at Penn State, saying an Olympic gold medal was the next step.

“This is cool, but I want the peak of the sport,” he said. “I don’t look past this because this is what I wake up to do every single day. It’s been fun smacking the head of the college team, but I want that Olympic gold. 

If Starocci pursues the Olympics as planned, he’ll likely cross paths with fellow Penn Staters.

As wrestling podcaster Justin Basch tweeted, Starocci could move down to 74kg, where he’d probably go against Nittany Lion Club teammates Kyle Dake and Jason Nolf. Dake won four national titles at Cornell, and Nolf won three at Penn State.

If Starocci moved to 86KG, he’d likely run into Penn State legends Dave Taylor and Aaron Brooks. Taylor was a two-time national champ at Penn State and is now a two-time world champion, and Brooks won his third national title not long after Starocci did Saturday. 

An Olympic gold medal is plenty ambitious, but Carter Starocci didn’t stop there. 

He wants to be an MMA champ one day as well, and although he didn’t call him by name, he made an apparent challenge to former UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman.

Usman was a national champion at Division II Nebraska-Kearney. That would impress a lot of people. 

But if it impresses Starocci, he didn’t show it in his interview. 

“He was a DII national champ,” Starocci said. “That’s beginners’ stuff where I come from. So, I’ll be ready for all of it.”

Carter Starocci has been ready for seemingly everything so far, so it wouldn’t be wise to doubt him. 

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