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‘I’d Have Spit in his Face’: Penn State Wrestling Star Carter Starocci Rips Jordan Burroughs

Carter Starocci, Penn State Wrestling
Photo by NCAA: Carter Starocci

Penn State wrestling star Carter Starocci isn’t angry with Jordan Burroughs for what he said last month. 

Burroughs, commentating for ESPN on the NCAA Championships, suggested that Starocci’s opponents would be smart to target his knee, which he injured in late February during Penn State’s last regular-season dual meet. 

This led to a beef between Burroughs and another Penn State wrestling legend, Bo Nickal.

Starocci had his own comment on Burroughs leading up to these U.S. Olympic Trials, which took place in State College. But when asked about Burroughs’ comments from March Saturday, Starocci said he didn’t have an issue. 

“Like I said, this is a ruthless game,” Starocci told reporters. “So, I mean, I would be expecting him to come after my knee or anybody to come after my knee. That’s expected. I didn’t take any, like, personal offense to it.”

What happened at the end of Burroughs’ semifinal match at 74 KG against Starocci’s Penn State and Nittany Lion Wrestling Club teammate, Mitchell Mesenbrink, bothered Starocci a lot more.

When the whistle blew at the end, Mesenbrink, perhaps not hearing it, continued to wrestle. Burroughs took exception and pushed Mesenbrink’s head to the ground. Mesenbrink got up and appeared to apologize to Burroughs. If Burroughs accepted the apology, it wasn’t obvious from the video.

As with most topics, Starocci made his thoughts clear. 

“I was Mitchell Mesenbrink and he jammed my face into the mat,” Starocci said, “I would have spit in his face. You’re not going to jam my face in the mat, so I kind of wish Mitch would have done something. But I think it was cool like his response that he kind of gave, like ‘hey, let’s wrestle.’

Starocci acknowledged that Burroughs, a six-time world champion who won the Gold Medal at 74KG in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, has “done a lot for the sport.”

“But for me, it doesn’t really mean much,” he said. “I mean, I kind of have that side where it’s just like I don’t care about anything, you know what I mean? I don’t care who you are, what you stand for, what you say. I mean, what he said, again, I just thinkmaybe he should rough my knee up. So there’s no personal offense. I just think he walks around thinking that he’s King Kong. And he’s not.”

After beating Mesenbrink, Burroughs took on another Penn Stater, Jason Nolf, in the consolation finals.

In a stunning upset, Nolf won 3-0.

Afterward, a fan taunted Burroughs, and Burroughs responded.

For Starocci, it was natural for Penn State fans to be rooting against Burroughs. 

“I didn’t hear too much of what they were saying,” he said, “but I think after what he did to Mitch and stuff like that… and then he also wrestled Nolf, who’s also a Penn State guy. So, obviously, they’re not going to cheer for him and love him. And, again, I know he won the Olympics and stuff like that. But, at the end of the day, it’s not your home crowd. You’re not welcome over here, you know what I mean? Like, we don’t care who you are. You’re the enemy. So, you’re here to be taken out. We don’t care about your career or your accolades. You’re in emeny lines, you know what I mean? So, I mean, I’m all for it. I didn’t want him to win. obviously wanted Mitch and Nolf to beat him, so if he would have won those matches, I would have wanted (fellow NLWC member Kyle) Dake to beat him.”

Starocci described Burroghes’ actions against Mesenbrink as “sneaky.”

“He kind of like walked behind him,” Starocci said, “and Mitch’s head was down and he jammed his face. If you’re going to be a tough guy, like, just be a tough guy and have like a fair battle, you know what I mean?”

Starocci said if Burroughs had done the same thing to some of his other Penn State teammates, it would have been a different result. 

I‘m all for it,” he said. “I get the competitive nature. I just think that was a little unnecessary and stuff like that, and he knows a guy like Mitch isn’t going to retaliate. Mitch isn’t that kind of guy. So, I would like to see him do something like that to like me or Brooks or someone like that or even Beau (Bartlett) and see how tough he is then. I think it’s a whole different story. So I think he knew he was wrestling Mitch, (Mesenbrink) wasn’t going to retaliate. So, now, he wants to be a tough guy, but when the tough guys (are) around, he’s not very tough.”

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