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Stine: Penn State Wrestling Star Carter Starocci’s Weekend Journey was Interesting

Iowa wrestler Nelson Brands vs. Penn State's Carter Starocci (Photo by Penn State Athletics)

This weekend’s Big Ten Wrestling Championships will probably be known for a long time as the weekend Penn State sent seven wrestlers to the finals, won five individual titles and retained the team crown by a margin of 47 points over second-place Michigan. It was pure dominance from Saturday morning’s start to Sunday evening’s finish.

But it is also a time where, even though it’s merely a footnote to the whole weekend, Carter Starocci was forced to medically default twice and bow out of the tournament. What happened afterward got a lot of people talking. 

Starocci put out a post on X (formerly Twitter) late Saturday night saying, ‘Looking forward to a new chapter. Thank you Penn State forever.’ He also apparently left College Park, Md. after being eliminated because the location on the tweet showed State College as its origination.

Starocci is a competitor, and he was obviously upset that he didn’t get to compete over the weekend. PSU coach Cael Sanderson said in his media availability last week that he would send Starocci out to wrestle if it was in his best interest. Sanderson obviously felt the juice was not worth the squeeze.

It’s also possible that Sanderson sent Starocci back to State College to avoid the inevitable questions he would have got from reporters had he stayed.

You have to remember it was only two weeks prior that Starocci needed help getting off the mat in the Penn State’s last dual meet of the season against Edinboro.

Sanderson told the Centre Daily Times’ Nate Cobler Saturday night that Starocci would ‘wrestle if both of his legs were hurt.’ Sanderson was there to stop Starocci from competing and potentially aggravating his injury further, fully knowing that there are bigger fish to fry in a couple weeks at nationals in Kansas City.

It obviously rubbed Starocci the wrong way, and but Sanderson was right to hold him out of the competition. Starocci could become a 4-time champion at Kansas City. So why shouldn’t Sanderson preserve one of his stars’ health as much as possible?

Starocci has also apparently cooled off over the last couple days. He put out another post Monday to say, ‘Big Ten title is cool but NCAA title is cooler. Next chapter: Kansas City.”

Yep, it’s a pretty good swerve by the 3-time national champion.

Starocci is one of the most interesting people on a Penn State wrestling team that is full of characters. There is a confidence about him that if it rubbed off on a terrible golfer, it would make that golfer believe he could qualify for the U.S. Open.

Starocci wrestled Virginia Tech’s Mekhi Lewis in this year’s NWCA All-Star Classic at Rec Hall. Starocci pounded Lewis in every way, finishing with an 11-0 major decision. Afterwards, Starocci told reporters, “There was absolutely nothing he was going to do about it. I could have done anything I wanted. When you take someone’s heart, that’s the best feeling.”

The guy tells you exactly what is on his mind. You have to respect that.

It’s possible that Starocci still doesn’t like the decision by Sanderson to hold him out for the weekend, but in time he will probably realize that it was the best decision made.

And in less than two weeks, it’s also very possible that the last two weeks are going to be just a minor speed bump on Starocci’s road to being at the top of the podium at the NCAA Championships for the fourth time.

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