Taking a look at the 2022-2023 Penn State Nittany Lion Wrestling Team profiles for the group at 149 pounds
In our first two installments of “Inside the Singlet“, we highlighted Nittany Lion grapplers at 125/133 and 141 pounds. These amazing student athletes are interesting both on the mat as well as off. From owning lawn care businesses in elementary school, to graphic novel lovers, to “Flipping Friday” videos, it’s been a privilege for me to learn more about their diverse backgrounds.
In this edition, Jessi Lillo and myself take a stroll down memory lane for the group of wrestlers at 149 pounds.
Here we go!
Major: Division of Undergraduate Studies
Hometown: Erie, Pa.
Penn State Career
Connor is currently a true freshman as he joined the Nittany Lions this past fall.
He competed in five matches in the 2022 Jonathan Kaloust Bearcat Open and took home a runner-up finish at 149.
Prior to Penn State
Before packing his bags and moving to University Park, Pierce was a force to reckon with as a part of the Harbor Creek High School wrestling team.
Connor was a team captain for all four years, all-district three times,all-region wrestler three times, and was a two time Region Wrestler of the Year recipient.
During his career at Harbor Creek, Pierce put together a career record of 140-18 which included a 38-1 run his senior year. His only loss that season was a decision loss in the Pennsylvania State finals.
Connor was the first wrestler in his district to win four state medals and he also represented Pennsylvania two separate times in the Fargo National Championships.
“I posted that picture with the saying, ‘future coach. Which is funny, because at that time it was completely unrealistic. It’s pretty cool now to see that become a reality. If you would have told me that Cael was actually going to be my (college) coach, I would have maybe believed you.”
As early as middle school, Pierce knew exactly where he wanted to wrestle in college.
While competing in a youth tournament in 2017, Connor met Cael Sanderson and had his picture taken with the wrestling legend.
Following Pierce’s success in both the youth wrestling circuit and in high school, Penn State offered him a scholarship to compete with the best wrestlers in the best wrestling room in the country.
Connor obviously accepted.
"“You watch him when he wrestles, and he’s usually smiling about 98% of the time. That’s just part of his nature all the way across the board. You’re going to get somebody that’s very active, I would presume in the Penn State community, as much as he is with us. You’re definitely getting somebody that I think would represent Penn State well academically, athletically, and personally. -Coach Don Capan"
Away from wrestling Connor was a very busy individual.
Pierce was the president of the student council and a member of his high school’s Homecoming court. Connor was a stellar student, and he was active in fundraising and involved in various community service efforts.
Coach Capan wants the Penn State wrestling fans to know how special Connor will be to the Nittany Lion wrestling room. He praised Pierce for how he helped the Harbor Creek program and his teammates throughout the challenges of the pandemic.
“We threw as much as we could at him with all of that, but he was able to still help mentor and teach any of the other new guys that we had in the room. He’s going to be a teammate that guys are going to be glad to have around the room.”
Connor credits Gary and Mark Steen for helping him train year round and to constantly improve. Mark was also instrumental in connecting Cody Sanderson to Pierce as his son Gary was then a freshman in the program.
Pierce also joins another stellar Erie County wrestling prodigy on the team. Carter Starocci was a graduate of Cathedral Prep in Erie, Pa. and Connor knew who Starocci was even before high school as they both trained with the Bad Karma Wrestling Club.
Connor sees some of himself in the way Carter wrestles and trains. He’s believes being confident without being cocky, never being satisfied, and having the awareness to work on his weak areas can all greatly impact his wrestling and how far he can go.