While Penn State was out crushing the competition at the Big Ten Wrestling Championships, Nittany Lions commit Carter Starocci pulverized the 182-pound field at the PIAA Class 3A tournament Saturday for his second state title.
The Erie Cathedral Prep senior destroyed his opponents in methodical fashion, scoring two falls, a major decision and a dominant 7-1 win in the finals over Mount Lebanon’s Luke Stout. Starocci finishes his senior season at a perfect 41-0. He also ends an impressive career with a 159-10 record and two PIAA titles, along with a runner-up and an eighth-place finish.
Starocci, ranked by InterMat as the nation’s second-best wrestler in his current weight class, won a 2018 PIAA title at 160 pounds.
“I felt really good this weekend and I was healthy; that’s the big thing,” Starocci said. “I was excited to wrestle. I knew it was my last time wrestling for coach Mike Hahesy — he’s like a second dad to me. I wanted to go out there and score as many bonus points as I could for him to get the team title, but we came up a little short.”
Next on the agenda is a date at the Dapper Dan Classic this Friday at the University of Pittsburgh’s Fitzgerald Field House, where he meets Iowa recruit Abe Assad from Illinois.
With his prep career almost completed, it’s time for Starocci to focus on cracking a Penn State lineup loaded with talent. Mark Hall occupies 174 and Shakur Rasheed may or may not be back at 184, depending on his NCAA petition for another year. Even if Rasheed doesn’t return, Penn State has Aaron Brooks coming in after greyshirting.
It won’t be easy, but Starocci — who’ll arrive on campus later this year — has loads of confidence in his ability and the mindset of a true competitor.
“My mentality is my strength,” he said. “I feel I have the same mentality that they do at Penn State. I don’t care who I’m wrestling, whether it’s Kyle Snyder or Jordan Burroughs or a 5-year-old kid, I’m going out to crush you, score points and try to pin you. I can get better in all areas — top, bottom and on my feet. I can work on all that and I need to score more points in college.”
Starocci, ranked by FloWrestling as the nation’s No. 3 174-pound prospect at the time of his November commitment, had offers from most of the major wrestling programs in the country. In the end, he felt the decision to go to Penn State gave him the best opportunity to achieve his goals.
“Talking to my family, all my goals aligned with Penn State with everything they’ve provided other people who went there. It was an opportunity I wanted to take,” Starocci said. “I chose it for many reasons. One, I feel I can accomplish my goals there. They have a great coaching staff and a great team there. I just feel it’s the best place for me.”
Starocci found his path to the sport at an early age. He watched his older brother wrestle, and it wasn’t long before he fell in love with the sport himself.
He said the support from his family only solidified the fact he was on the right path. His father and uncle both watched him in Fargo, N.D., where he was a double winner in 2017 — and they were on-hand again Saturday to watch him win gold.
That family dynamic helped mold him into the person he is today, which is a good thing considering Penn State coach Cael Sanderson tested his self-discipline during his first recruiting visit during his high school junior season.
“It was the first dual where I had to make the weight to go to states and we went out to eat. He knew I was over and had to make weight for that Saturday,” Starocci remembered. “He ordered a large basket of fried corn dogs. He didn’t eat any of them and asked me like 15 times if I wanted to try one, and I kept saying no. Finally, he said, ‘Yeah, that’s not going to help you make weight, is it?’ And I said, ‘Not at all.’ It was interesting to see him do that.”
Starocci doesn’t know the plans Sanderson and his staff have for him next season but, no matter what, being part of the Penn State machine will only make him a better wrestler.
“I’m not sure what’s going to happen. I’ll be ready to go and win an NCAA title next year, but if I redshirt, I redshirt. If I don’t, I don’t,” Starocci said. “Every partner I have is going to be a blessing. It’s going to be awesome going into that room and getting better every day.”