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Penn State wrestling star makes bold claims about NIL earnings
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Penn State wrestling star makes bold claims about NIL earnings

It may be May, but Carter Starocci still finds ways to make headlines. From announcing his return for a fifth NCAA title to not-so-subtly attacking the loyalty of Penn State wrestling legend David Taylor, Starocci has been the topic of conversation on several fronts. Last week the Nittany Lions wrestler joined the NIL discussion and made a bold claim about his merits that attracted a lot of attention.

Is Carter Starocci the highest paid athlete in college wrestling?

The effects of NIL on college athletics are now well documented. While most attention is paid to the earnings of the NCAA’s football or basketball stars, college wrestling also has a booming NIL market.

NIL was at the forefront of the conversation last Wednesday when Wrestlers Grind posed a question on social media asking who could be the highest paid wrestler in the sport. The post featured perhaps the sport’s most recognizable face, Penn State wrestling star Carter Starocci.

Never one to shy away from a discussion on social media, Carter Starocci quickly found himself in the chat. The four-time NCAA champion responded to the question with the simple answer: “I definitely do.” Within 24 hours, Starocci had announced his return for a shot at an unprecedented fifth Individual National Championship, further fueling the NIL debate.

Starocci’s rumored seven-figure deal in 2025

Following Carter Starocci’s comments, Pat Mineo (The Wrestling Room) responded to some comments that the Penn State wrestling star is expected to make $1.25 million in his final season. That’s $750,000 more than the rumored $500,000 offered to top Transfer Portal prospect and former NCAA champion Andrew Alirez of Northern Colorado.

However, the discussion took on a whole new light after Starocci’s comments this week. After Nittany Lions icon David Taylor was announced as the next head coach at Oklahoma State, Starocci once again took to social media to express what he felt was a choice between money and loyalty to the Penn State wrestling program.

‘I was also offered a big payday’ wrote Starocci. “I said, ‘Go wipe your ass with that money.’ When it comes to money, people switch like crazy. Not me. Loyalty is everything. Nothing is built without trust. PSU vs. OK State at the football stadium. The national champions (will win) 10 games to 0.”

Many have interpreted that statement as a reference to possible NIL deals. Carter Starocci was offered to leave Penn State. However, none of this information is verified and documented outside of social media. It’s also worth noting that Starocci did not enter the transfer portal before returning to the Nittany Lions for one final season.

Penn State wrestling praises NIL juggernaut

Much has been made of Penn State’s NIL status when it comes to football and basketball. In wrestling, however, money is clearly not an issue. Cael Sanderson and Penn State have put together one of, if not the best, lineups in college wrestling history. That can’t be done in today’s college athletics without a solid NIL budget.

That’s thanks in large part to the widespread support for wrestling in Pennsylvania. It stands to reason that Penn State’s fan base would be about as engaged as possible after the program has won 11 national championships in 13 seasons.

So while Carter Starocci is rumored to be making a staggering amount of money this year on paper, it’s more of a testament to the support and alignment the Penn State wrestling program has with both the administration and the NIL community at large. That’s a scary thought for any other NCAA wrestling program in the future.



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