2x NCAA Champions Carter Starocci (left) and Roman Bravo-Young (photos courtesy of Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com)
'He's going to be fine.' Max Dean's Penn State teammates offer support after 2-loss weekend
After winning his first national title as a freshman in 2021, Penn State's Carter Starocci said head coach Cael Sanderson pulled him into his office and offered some advice.
"He said, 'Just remember, the first one you win is always the easiest,'" Starocci recalled Tuesday. "And that kind of always stuck with me because now guys are breaking you down, breaking down your film."
The Penn State sophomore was reminded of this advice after seeing his teammate, reigning 197-pound national champ Max Dean, take two losses over the weekend.
Dean suffered his first loss Friday evening with a controversial takedown in sudden victory to Rider's Ethan Laird. He then fell, 11-9, to former teammate Michael Beard two days later in an action-packed match at Lehigh.
"Max is a really nice kid. He'll hold the door for a hundred people in a row," Satrocci said. "I think he can be a little more mean, and that would help him out. But he's going to be fine. I think come the end of the year, he'll be on the top of the podium."
For his own part, Starocci said he's never stopped having the mentality of "the hunter," even if everyone else is hunting him as the now-two-time national champ at 174 pounds.
Starocci said he's texted Dean a few times since his losses but has mostly left him alone.
"I know after a weekend like that you kind of don't want to talk to anybody. You kind of just want to think about what's going on," Starocci said. "So, I just let him deal with it because ultimately he's the one who's going to have to make the changes and the adjustments."
As one of the wrestlers who have been with the program the longest, fifth-year-senior Roman Bravo-Young said likes to lead by example. He comes into the room twice a day every day, focuses and gets his work done.
"Max had a tough weekend, but now it's back to work," he said. "We talk about it and move on."
As a graduate senior, Bravo-Young is taking a different approach to this season. Already having two national titles under his belt, the Tucson native says he "doesn't have much to prove" and is just enjoying his final season while preparing for his next goal - winning a World medal in freestyle.
Bravo-Young plans to wrestle a partial schedule this season, at least during the nonconference stretch. In the meantime, he's enjoyed watching other wrestlers, such as his roommate Karl Shindledecker, get a chance to compete in his stead.
As the season progresses, Bravo-Young said he hopes fans of the sport will be a little more forgiving as wrestlers are learning or have bad weeks.
"People don't understand that college wrestling is hard. It's hard to be on every time," he said. "People have this expectation for Penn State wrestling. College wrestling is hard and I think everyone needs to understand that it's not an easy sport. It's a mind game. I think there's a lot more that goes into it that people don't see."