After winning the state championship in 2011, the Warwick Vets wrestling team brought home more hardware in 2012, with five wrestlers winning individual state titles. Unfortunately for the ’Canes, there wasn’t a lot of depth beyond those five, and Vets fell just short of a second consecutive state championship.
They’re hoping for a different result this year. Three state champions are still in the fold, and the team around them is looking stronger.
It adds up to another year of high expectations.
“Last year, we had five state champions and still fell short,” said head coach Brendan Friel. “Where we had some gaps last year, most of those are being filled in this year. We’re not filling them with state champions like we had two years ago, but we’ve got people who will be competitive and will have a shot to medal.”
That means the ’Canes expect to contend for another state title. They may not be the favorites like they were in 2011, but they have the potential to be there at the end.
The optimism starts with the returning state champions – seniors Nathaniel Colicci and George Schmeider and junior John Altieri. Friel has the same expectations for all of them.
“I anticipate them meeting that same level of success and even exceeding it in terms of what they do at New Englands,” Friel said.
Colicci won the state title at 120 last season and is slated to wrestle at 126 this year.
“He finished sixth at New Englands last year, and I think he can win the whole thing this year,” Friel said.
Schmeider, who won the state title in dramatic fashion, will also be looking for a repeat and more success at New Englands.
“He’s going to be looking for another state championship,” Friel said. “He was disappointed in his performance at New Englands last year so I think he’ll really be pushing to be an All-New England type.”
Altieri, who won two state championships in his first two years in the program, will be pushing for three in a row. He’ll wrestle at 113.
“He’s got his eyes set on a New England championship,” Friel said.
For all the returning champions, this year will be a different experience. The last two years, the team was dominated by veteran stars like Mike Meyers, Nick Salois and Devin Hurst. This year, it’s up to Altieri, Colicci and Schmeider to lead the way.
“Our three returning state champs have really taken the lead,” Friel said. “This is the first year that they haven’t been in the shadows of the older guys. I’m starting to see some really good leadership from them.”
That’s a good thing as the ’Canes try to mold their team into a contender. Two other seniors – Casey Beauregard and Aaron Hurst – are coming off solid performances at states last year and will be looking to make a jump this season. Beauregard is a heavyweight and Hurst is wrestling at 195.
“I expect to see those guys have really good years and compete for medals at states,” Friel said. “I think they’re going to step up.”
Mickenzey Pacheco and Tommy Galligan will be looking for similar breakouts. To fill out the rest of the lineup, the ’Canes will look to wrestlers who are a little more untested, but there’s potential in a lot of spots.
“Things are going good,” Friel said. “We’ve got some young kids in the room and they’re learning the ropes.”
Friel is taking over as head coach after spending five years as an assistant. He’ll be joined by assistants Aaron Meredith and Meyers, the former four-time state champion.
Together, the coaching staff and the program will try to carry on the legacy that longtime coach George Schmeider Sr. helped establish. Schmeider, who had been battling an illness since August, passed away last week.
As the ’Canes gear up for the season, they’re embracing the Vets tradition.
“I’m starting to see that the success we’ve had and the tradition is something these kids want,” Friel said. “There’s a reputation and these kids want to be a part of it.”