Iowa men’s wrestler Michael Kemerer, Penn State’s Carter Starocci slated for rematch

Friday will mark the third time Kemerer has wrestled Starocci in less than a year. Kemerer is currently 1-1 against Starocci.

Iowa%E2%80%99s+Michael+Kemerer+scrambles+for+an+escape+against+Penn+State%E2%80%99s+Carter+Starocci+during+the+finals+of+the+Big+Ten+Wrestling+Tournament+at+the+Bryce+Jordan+Center+in+State+College%2C+PA+on+Sunday%2C+March+8%2C+2021.+Kemerer+won+the+match+by+decision+7-2.+The+Hawkeyes+won+the+Big+Ten+Title+with+a+team+score+of+159.5.+This+is+the+37+Big+Ten+Title+in+school+history.+

Ryan Adams

Iowa’s Michael Kemerer scrambles for an escape against Penn State’s Carter Starocci during the finals of the Big Ten Wrestling Tournament at the Bryce Jordan Center in State College, PA on Sunday, March 8, 2021. Kemerer won the match by decision 7-2. The Hawkeyes won the Big Ten Title with a team score of 159.5. This is the 37 Big Ten Title in school history.

Austin Hanson, Sports Editor


Michael Kemerer fell just short of one of his biggest career goals last year. 

The now-seventh-year senior Iowa men’s wrestler made the 2021 NCAA Wrestling Championship Finals a year ago. With a national championship in his grasp, Kemerer’s hips hit the mat.

Penn State 174-pounder Carter Starocci’s hand was soon raised. The true freshman had scored a match-ending takedown on Kemerer in overtime.

As Starocci leapt into Nittany Lion head wrestling coach Cael Sanderson’s arms, Kemerer exited the mat with Hawkeye head coach Tom Brands. Brands put his arm around Kemerer as they walked down the tunnel.

Starocci was the nation’s third-ranked wrestler at 174 pounds. Kemerer was the No. 1 seed in the weight class.

Kemerer, who is from Murrysville, Pennsylvania, is 1-1 all-time against Starocci. Kemerer beat Starocci, 7-2, to win a Big Ten title just two weeks before the NCAA Championship Finals.

Following his loss to Starocci, Kemerer had a choice on his hands. He could return to Iowa for a seventh season or end his collegiate wrestling career.

Kemerer chose to return to the University of Iowa for the 2021-22 season with the loss to Starocci still on his mind.

“I wanted to be a national champion, and I did not achieve that,” Kermer told reporters at a virtual press conference Wednesday. “That plays a part in wanting to come back, wanting to finish on top. 

“To keep it even simpler than that, it’s just getting better every day,” Kemerer added. “It’s a very simple mindset, but that’s kinda how I look at it. Every day has been about getting better and experiencing that growth. This match Friday is going to be on that same path. It’s a tough opponent and a tough team. We’re excited for that. It’s all part of that journey.”

Kemerer is slated for a rematch with Starocci Friday evening, as No. 2 Iowa takes on No. 1 Penn State at 8:15 p.m. at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Starocci is currently the nation’s top-ranked wrestler at 174 pounds, per Intermat. Kemerer is No. 2 in this week’s Intermat ratings.

“I always like wrestling the best guys,” Kemerer said of Starocci. “He’s a tough opponent. He’s a worthy opponent. It’s exciting to me. We wrestle now. We wrestle Big Tens, nationals, maybe. I can’t predict all that. I love wrestling worthy opponents, so it’s exciting.”

Wrestling a top-ranked Nittany Lion at home isn’t unfamiliar territory for Kemerer. Two years ago, Kemerer upset Penn State’s Mark Hall at Carver.

Hall was ranked first in the nation, with Kemerer trailing him at No. 3. After a late takedown, Kemerer won the match via 11-6 decision.

“I remember being in the back room, not knowing what’s going on,”  senior 197-pounder Jacob Warner said of the Kemerer 2020 match against Hall. “I could just hear the fans. It sounded like a train coming through Carver.”

Iowa won its 2020 dual with Penn State, 19-17. The Hawkeyes trailed the Nittany Lions, 14-10 before Kemerer hit the mat.

“Grandpa Mike” is 115-10 as a college wrestler. He has earned All-America honors on four occasions and was a Big Ten Champion in 2021.

His last chance to win an individual national title will come March 17-19, as the 2022 NCAA Division I Men’s Wrestling Championships are held at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit.

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