Wrestler Carter Starocci

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Photo taken by Mark Selders and provided by Penn State

A standout wrestler in high school and now college, Carter Starocci success has been driven by his dauntless work ethic.

There are competitive people — and then there is Carter Starocci.

The 21-year-old junior at Pennsylvania State University is the reigning two-time NCAA champion wrestler in the 174-pound weight class. In October, he took home a bronze medal in the freestyle 79-kilogram category at the U-23 World Championships in Spain.

Staroccci has his sights set on many more victories, including NCAA titles, a world championship and an Olympic gold. Then, he plans to embark on a career competing in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, he says.

Starocci says he knew from a young age that he wanted to be the best in the world and has applied unwavering discipline to work toward that goal.

“To me, I don’t care about anything except winning,” he says.

For several years, he’s had a strict routine: wake up early, work out, go to class, work out again, and cap the day with a massage or body work. If he watches TV, it’s typically related to wrestling. His friends are all involved in wrestling, because otherwise they would be “a distraction,” he says.

“Whatever you’re doing in life, everyone knows what they’ve got to do to be great,” he says. “The hard part is actually doing it and staying disciplined. From a young age, I built a very strong conscience within myself, and I stayed accountable.”

Starocci grew up in Erie, Pennsylvania, with two siblings; his father, Christopher Starocci, who is Italian-American; and his mother, Starla Speed, who is Black. From his father, he gets his competitive, passionate side, while his caring, loving side comes from his mother, he says.

Starocci learned to cook Italian food from his father and grandfather, a skill that has served him well. “When I got to college, I was a five-star chef compared to everybody else,” he says, laughing.

He took up wrestling to emulate his older brother, who turned out to be better at football. Meanwhile, Starocci discovered wrestling suited him much better than team sports.

“If teammates aren’t doing good or if they are slacking off, that’s going to affect the results,” he says. “I’m the most competitive person in the world, so I didn’t like that part. In wrestling, I could always control my own destiny.”

Starocci attended Cathedral Preparatory School in his hometown. He was a four-year letterman and team captain, winning the state championship as a junior and senior.

He decided to attend Penn State because of, or perhaps despite, the insistence of his father, who lobbied so hard for the school he even got his son a license plate holder with its logo. It didn’t hurt that Penn State’s coach, Cael Sanderson, is a wrestling legend who has won nine NCAA Division I team titles during his tenure at the school.

Penn State is also close enough for his family — a contingent that includes his parents, brother, cousin, two uncles and grandpa — to make the four-hour drive to watch him compete.

“Being close to home is really powerful. Your family is still there, your friends are still there and you get the support of your hometown,” he says. “When I see them in the crowd, it gives me more strength.”

Starocci is majoring in psychology and communications. After his future UFC career, he plans to get into real estate, open a gym and own a restaurant, he says, adding he’s already started investing his money.

His faith plays a major role in his life, and he is grateful to God for all the blessings he’s received, including the support of his family, he says. After growing up Catholic, he now defines himself as being “on the spiritual side of things.”

So does he ever feel like he’s making sacrifices? “To me, I am not sacrificing anything,” he says. “If I wanted to do something else, I would do that. This is what I am choosing in my life. I am going to go get it. I will go get it.”

The above appears in the January 2023 issue of the print version of Fra Noi. Our gorgeous, monthly magazine contains a veritable feast of news and views, profiles and features, entertainment and culture. To subscribe, click here.


About Elena Ferrarin

Elena Ferrarin is a native of Rome who has worked as a journalist in the United States since 2002. She has been a correspondent for Fra Noi for more than a decade. She previously worked as a reporter for The Daily Herald in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, The Regional News in Palos Heights and as a reporter/assistant editor for Reflejos, a Spanish-English newspaper in Arlington Heights. She has a bachelor’s degree from Brown University and a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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One comment

  1. I’d encourage everyone to watch Carter wrestle at least once while he’s in college. His competitiveness is off the charts and he’s the highlight of any match he’s in. The BIG 10 network covers some the Penn State matches and he’ll most certainly be in the Conference and National Championships which will be televised on ESPN or FOX Sports as well.

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