POWERade Ends in Fireworks With #1 Starocci Beating #2 Nijenhuis

It was a match that many at Canon-McMillan High School had waited nine months to see: Cathedral Prep’s Carter Starocci vs. their own Big Mac, Gerrit Nijenhuis.

As the highlight match of the night, the 182-pound bout was held until the very end, and boy, did the POWERade Wrestling Tournament end with some fireworks.

Starocci beat Nijenhuis 5-2, but it may be best remembered for the final few seconds and post-match activities.

Starocci led 3-2 but, rather than try to fend off Nijenhuis’ attacks for the win, the defending state champion shot in on a single. He brought Nijenhuis’ leg up and, as the final seconds ticked off, he kicked out Nijenhuis’ supporting leg for a final takedown. As they went out of bounds, Starocci rolled over top of Nijenhuis. The two exchanged words as they walked back to the center and, before official Sean Kearney could raise Starocci’s hand, they went after each other.

Kearney and coaches from each team quickly intervened, but for a brief second or two, it looked like things could escalate quickly as representatives of both schools went on the mat.

About 10 minutes later, after they had accepted their awards on the podium, Starocci wasn’t about to back down.

“I got a takedown and he was talking some trash,” the Penn State recruit said in an exclusive interview with PA Power Wrestling. “He tried to push me. I mean, if he wants to fight, we can fight. He can play his cards with that one.”

During an interview with PA Power Wrestling before the finals, Nijenhuis admitted that his 3-1 loss to Starocci in the PIAA semifinals had weighed on him.

In that one, Starocci scored a controversial takedown in the closing seconds on his way to the state title at 160 pounds while Nijenhuis had to settle for third. The Canon-Mac junior said he probably had watched the video of that match 500 times and replayed it in his head many more, so Saturday’s bout was one that he had been dreaming of for months.

Starocci, on the other hand, said the possible rematch hadn’t been on his mind.

“I feel I’m on a higher level, but it is what it is,” he said. “I know everyone’s talking about it and how at states it was controversial. But I won, so, keep talking about it.”

Saturday night’s match, was scoreless after one period. Starocci escaped in the second and Nijenhuis matched it in the third. Starocci took the lead 20 seconds later, but Nijenhuis escaped in the final minute. Nijenhuis wasn’t able to get much going offensively in the closing seconds and had seemingly accepted his fate when Starocci scored the final takedown.

“It was a good match, like all my matches are,” Starocci said. “I always try to score points. He was backing up a lot. The ref wasn’t calling anything, so I just had to keep going.”

Starocci said the outcome won’t change his outlook.

“That’s always my mentality – is always score points,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s first, second or third. I just go out there, try to get my takedowns, look for a turn or whatever. Keep scoring points, never stop.”

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