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Penn State Wrestling Star Carter Starocci Leaning Toward Returning for 6th Year

Photo by Penn State Athletics: Carter Starocci

The unthinkable might be happening for Penn State wrestling.

“Unthinkable” could mean something positive or negative. But in this case, it’d be great news for Coach Cael Sanderson and the program.

Many expected the 2022-23 season to be the last one in which Carter Starocci competed in college wrestling.

He hinted at as much in an interview with ESPN moments after winning his third national championship.

Even more expected this past season to be the last dance, with Starocci winning his fourth national title— a feat only five people had previously accomplished— to be his last, with a storybook ending to cap it all off.

Again, Starocci’s words after winning the championship indicated that he wouldn’t return to Penn State.

Well, almost a month has passed since that night in Kansas City, and Starocci told Christian Pyles of FloWrestling that, at the time he won his national title, he was leaning toward moving on from college wrestling.

Now, he says he’s leaning toward using his last season of eligibility and going for something no man has ever accomplished: five national titles.

“I thought about it a little bit, and I talked with Coach Cael,” Starocci said. “Our coaches don’t stop. NCAAs are over and we land and they’re back in the room Monday and they’re already thinking about what’s next. We’ve already talked a little bit and I kind of laid out some of my thoughts and things like that and he laid out some of his ideas, and we decided after the Trials we would have another  conversation and another meeting. So I was 60-40 not coming back immediately after NCAAs, but now I may be 60-40 coming back. But it’s up in the air. We’ll see.”

Before he can think too much about the rest of 2024 and early 2025, Starocci must get through this weekend’s Olympic Trials.

Many thought Starocci would compete at 74 KG, but he’ll instead be at 86 in a bracket that is headlined by Penn State legend and reigning Gold Medalist David Taylor and also features Starocci’s former teammates in Aaron Brooks and Max Dean.

Now, based on history, Penn State wrestling fans might have to wait a while for Starocci to make his decision. He didn’t officially announce last year until late October.

Starocci, who has won all four of his national titles at 174, might be making a significant weight class jump if he does come back.

“I know Coach Cael mentioned we’re going going 97 (197 pounds) so, we’ll see,” he said. “We have options.”

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