Carter Starocci vs Mekhi Lewis | 2023 NWCA All-Star Classic Preview

Carter Starocci vs Mekhi Lewis | 2023 NWCA All-Star Classic Preview
Carter Starocci vs Mekhi Lewis | 2023 NWCA All-Star Classic Preview

The 2023 NWCA All-Star Classic is set to go down on November 21, 2023 at 7:00 pm (ET) in State College, Pennsylvania. This event will feature some of college wrestling’s best athletes and will be a night filled with incredible matchups from start to finish. One of the premier matches of the night is at 174 pounds with #1 Carter Starocci taking on #3 Mekhi Lewis. In the article below, we’ll give a history of each wrestler, a breakdown of their matchup, and make a prediction for this NCAA Finals rematch.

2023 NWCA All-Star Classic

Carter Starocci, Penn State

Career Stats

  • 61-2 career college record
  • 3-time NCAA Champion (2021, 2022, and 2022)
  • 52-match winning streak (longest current streak in the NCAA)
  • U23 World bronze medalist (2022)

College All-American Hitlist

  • Mekhi Lewis (2)
  • Chris Foca (3)
  • Mikey Labriola (4)
  • Michael Kemmerer (2)
  • Logan Massa (3)
  • Hayden Hidley
  • Ethan Smith
  • Demetrius Romero
  • Caleb Romero (2)
  • Jackson Turley
  • Nelson Brands

Mekhi Lewis, Virginia Tech

Career Stats

  • 84-9 career college record
  • NCAA Champion (2019), NCAA Runner-Up (2022), 4th at 2023 NCAAs
  • U20 World Champion (2018)

College All-American Hitlist

  • Chris Foca (2)
  • Mikey Labriola
  • Dustin Plott
  • Nelson Brands
  • Peyton Mocco (2)
  • Ethan Smith (2)
  • Jackson Turley
  • Logan Massa
  • Hayden Hidley
  • Vincenzo Joseph
  • Evan Wick
  • Alex Marinelli
  • Jake Wentzel

Starocci vs Lewis Match History

2022 NCAA Finals – Starocci wins 6-5, TB-1

2022 NWCA All-Star Classic – Starocci wins 2-0

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Breaking Down The Rivalry

Starocci and Lewis have met twice in their college careers with Starocci coming out on top both times. Their first meeting came in the finals of the 2022 NCAA Championships. In that epic match, Lewis struck first with a takedown in the second period and took a 3-1 lead into the third. After an escape from Starocci to make the score 3-2, Starocci then secured a takedown of his own to go into the lead, 4-3. Lewis then tied the score at 4 to send the match into overtime. Ultimately, the match went to ride-outs with Starocci edging Lewis but just 15 seconds of riding time to earn the 6-5 win and the NCAA title.

The two then met in last year’s NWCA All-Star Classic in what was considered the most highly anticipated bout of the entire event. Despite the build-up, the match fell short of achieving the same excitement of their NCAA Finals match. In the All-Star bout, neither wrestler scored a takedown in the first period leaving the score 0-0 heading into the second. Starocci got choice first and quickly escaped to take a 1-0 lead. With the score still 1-0 in the third period, Mekhi Lewis chose down only to be ridden by Starocci for the entirety of the final frame giving Starocci a 2-0 victory. Starocci’s top game proved to be the difference once again in the bout, however, this time Starocci won convincingly over Lewis.

2023 NWCA All-Star Classic Prediction

Is Carter Starocci a runaway champion this year at 174 pounds or will Mekhi Lewis be able to prevent Starocci from winning his 4th NCAA Title? Those are the big questions leading into their All-Star Classic matchup. Obviously, the NCAA title won’t be awarded on Tuesday night in State College, but the bout between Starocci and Lewis will set the stage for the rest of the season at 174 pounds.

On one hand, Starocci widened the gap against Mekhi Lewis from 2022 to 2023. Conventional wisdom says that if he did that before, he’s capable of doing it again. Starocci is one of the most difficult wrestlers in the country to take down and finishes his takedown attempts with amazingly high proficiency. On top of that, Starocci has already shown to have the advantage on the mat and has used that to defeat Lewis in their matches.

However, there is still a case for Mekhi Lewis. First, we saw how close he was to taking out Starocci in the NCAA Finals. Beyond that, riding rules were changed over the summer encouraging referees to call stalling on top wrestlers who are only riding and not looking for a turn. That definition seems to fit exactly how Starocci rode Lewis last year. How will Starocci use the mat to his advantage if he gets called for stalling early into his ride? This rule change definitely favors Lewis and will make it more challenging for Starocci to accumulate enough riding time to influence the outcome of the match.

So, what’s my prediction? I believe this match will look more like the 2022 NCAA finals match than last year’s All-Star match. I expect both wrestlers to get a takedown, earn their escapes, and for the match once again to be decided in overtime. I’m predicting Starocci gets the overtime takedown to narrowly win in front of his home crowd. Regardless of the outcome of the bout, we should expect a battle between Starocci and Lewis that is sure to produce one of the best matches of the night!

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Tags: Carter Starocci Mekhi Lewis NWCA AllStar Classic Preview


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