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NCAA Wrestling: First ever 5-time champ?

Penn State's Carter Starocci has a chance to be the first ever NCAA Division I wrestling champion

By Garv SenPublished 2 months ago 3 min read

The NCAA grants athletes four years of eligibility, a window through which they strive to achieve greatness in their respective sports. This period is often extended for various reasons such as redshirts—be it medical, Olympic, or other types. However, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 brought a unique disruption to the collegiate sports calendar, leading to the cancellation of key events, including the highly anticipated 2020 NCAA Wrestling Championships. To compensate for this unforeseen setback, the NCAA granted all athletes an additional "free year" of eligibility for the 2020-2021 season. This decision offered a unique opportunity, particularly for Penn State's 174-pound wrestler, Carter Starocci, then a freshman.

Seizing this unexpected chance, Starocci burst onto the collegiate wrestling scene during the 2020-2021 free year. His debut was nothing short of spectacular. Starocci demonstrated his prowess by securing his first NCAA title in 2021, delivering a stunning upset against Iowa's top-seeded Michael Kemerer. This victory marked the beginning of an illustrious college wrestling career, characterized by a blend of dominance and resilience despite occasional setbacks.

Over the next few years, Starocci solidified his reputation as one of the most formidable wrestlers in NCAA history. By the morning of March 24, 2024, he had amassed four NCAA titles, an achievement that placed him among the elite in collegiate wrestling. However, a significant decision loomed on the horizon: whether to leave college, focus on rehabilitating his injuries, and embark on a journey towards international wrestling glory, or to utilize his final year of eligibility and chase an unprecedented fifth NCAA Division I Wrestling Championship.

Starocci decided to try and make history. Recently, he announced his decision to return to college wrestling for one more year, aiming to become the first ever five-time NCAA Division I Wrestling Champion. This decision not only places him on the cusp of achieving a milestone that has never been reached before but also sets the stage for a potentially historic season in collegiate wrestling.

The significance of Starocci's pursuit cannot be overstated. Wrestling, a sport steeped in tradition and history, has seen numerous legends grace its mats. Yet, no one has ever secured five NCAA titles. The closest any wrestler has come was former Oklahoma State wrestler AJ Ferrari. Like Starocci, Ferrari won his first title during the free year as a freshman. However, Ferrari's career has been marred by various controversies and he has since been absent from the college wrestling scene, leaving Starocci as the sole contender for this extraordinary feat.

The pressure now rests heavily on Starocci's shoulders. His decision to return means more than just another season on the mat; it represents a quest for immortality in the annals of NCAA wrestling history. Each match, each bout, will carry the weight of this pursuit, with every opponent seeking to thwart his journey to a fifth title.

Starocci's path to this point has not been without challenges. Wrestling is an unforgiving sport, with injuries and fierce competition constantly threatening to derail even the most promising careers. Despite these obstacles, Starocci has demonstrated a remarkable blend of skill, determination, and resilience. His journey serves as an inspiration to aspiring wrestlers and sports enthusiasts alike, showcasing the relentless pursuit of excellence.

Starocci's quest for a fifth title promises to be a storyline filled with drama, intensity, and high stakes. Should he succeed, he will not only etch his name in the record books but also set a benchmark that may stand unchallenged for generations to come. Carter Starocci's decision to return for one final year is a testament to his unyielding spirit and his desire to leave an indelible mark on the sport he loves.


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    GSWritten by Garv Sen

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