Penn State wrestling and its fans will miss Carter Starocci if he has indeed wrestled his last collegiate match.
Obviously, they’ll miss Starocci’s talent. He’s won three national championships, has a 61-2 overall record and a 52-match win streak.
But off the mat, Penn State fans— at least some of them— will miss Starocci’s entertainment.
Starocci doesn’t have to be on the mat to raise eyebrows. There are several examples of this. The latest took place in the middle of the night Saturday. Starocci tweeted about a possible dream match in Ann Arbor this winter against Shane Griffith. Griffith is a Stanford wrestling legend who announced that he’d be transferring to Michigan earlier this week.
“I owe Shane an ass whooping,” Starocci tweeted at 1:44 a.m.
If I come back , I will look forward to this . I owe Shane an ass whooping . Great kid though but business is business https://t.co/rSxZM4295R
— Carter Starocci (@carterstarocci) May 6, 2023
Starocci went on to tweet that Griffith is a “great kid,” but “business is business.”
The tweets were in response to a post by wrestling media company Heavyweight Nation. This post broke down possible individual matchups for this coming season’s Penn State-Michigan dual meet.
Starocci’s response is likely referencing some history.
Starocci and Griffith wrestled way back in December 2016.
Starocci was a sophomore at Cathedral Prep (PA) and Griffith a junior at Bergen Catholic (New Jersey). The two met in the 152-pound class.
The older Griffith shut out Starocci, 3-0, at the Powerade Wrestling Tournament. This is one of the top in-season high school wrestling tournaments in the country.
Griffith had a decorated career at Stanford that goes beyond his individual accolades. He was a three-time All-American, a national champion in 2021 and might have had another national title stolen from him in 2020 when he was a finalist for the Hodge Trophy (wrestling’s Heisman) but couldn’t compete at the NCAA Championships due to the COVID-19 pandemic taking over the world.
More importantly, Shane Griffith saved Stanford wrestling, and that’s not hyperbole. Stanford had decided to cut wrestling in the summer of 2020, and after Griffith won his national title— just the second in Stanford’s 100-plus-year history—, he put on a sweatshirt that said: “Save Stanford wrestling.”
Less than two months later, the school overturned its decision and kept the program intact, as well as 10 other sports. Although the school said the reversal was because of an improved financial situation, it’s believed that Griffith’s big win had an influence, if nothing else.
More than two years later, Griffith is going to be a Wolverine, and a matchup between him and Starocci would be something that any college wrestling fan should enjoy.
But a few things have to happen for this to take place.
The biggest hurdle is that Starocci has to come back to Penn State for a fifth season. Back in March, it didn’t look like Starocci would be coming back.
“This (college wrestling) is cool,” Starocci told ESPN after winning his third national title— “but I want the peak of the sport. 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.”
Almost two weeks later, Starocci sent a series of tweets indicating that he hadn’t decided on whether to stay at Penn State or move on and focus on the Olympics.
“There’s options on the table,” one of the tweets reads. “I will talk with the people I trust and make a decision on either finishing my college career early, train strictly for my Olympic strap and then go right into MMA, or run down the college scene one last time for my 4th Natty Daddy, then head to Paris.”
Natty Daddy, then head to Paris. But whatever it’s bouta be imma get what I want. No handouts no nothing. Just all day long work consistently. Go to bed on a win and wake up with a loss. With the feeling of being comfortable. Not me. I carry on. Laser focus always. Then when I
— Carter Starocci (@carterstarocci) April 1, 2023
Another hurdle would be Griffith’s weight class. He won his national championship at 165 pounds, and Carter Starocci has won his three at 174. But early projections have Griffith moving up to 174 and three-time All-American Cam Amine staying at 165 for Michigan.
Despite the loss of 2023 Hodge winner and national champion Mason Parris (out of eligibility) at heavyweight, Michigan projects to be a force in 2023-24, and adding Griffith could complicate the stranglehold Penn State and Iowa have had on the Big Ten.
Penn State, on the other hand, is Penn State. Cael Sanderson’s wrestling empire has won 10 national titles in 12 years, and even if it loses Carter Starocci, the team will be favored to three-peat.
Less than two months into the offseason, Penn State’s already added three-time All-American Bernie Truax from Cal Poly (184 or 197), 2023 All-American Aaron Nagao from Minnesota (133) and Cal Baptist transfer Mitchell Mesenbrink (157 or 165).