John Altieri was halfway to a rare feat when he began his junior wrestling season at Warwick Vets. Altieri won state championships as a freshman and sophomore, and it was only natural to entertain thoughts of winning two more to finish with four, something that’s been done just a handful of times in Rhode Island wrestling history. Most recently, Altieri’s former Vets teammate Mike Meyers did it.
Halfway was enough to get Altieri dreaming – but it wasn’t enough for Altieri to really believe.
Three-fourths? That was enough.
Altieri won his third straight championship at the state tournament in February, winning the crown at 113 and making a believer out of himself.
“This was the year that really made me think I could do this,” Altieri said. “I was confident every year, but when I won the first two, it was still like, ‘I’ve got two more to go.’ The third one means I just have one more to win.”
Wrestling has been a near life-long passion for Altieri, who started when he was just five years old. The sport was big in his family and he ran with it. At Vets, he was a huge addition to a talented team in his freshman year, and his state title helped the ‘Canes win the team state championship.
He won again in 2012.
As he headed into his junior season, he knew title No. 3 would be no easy task. Altieri’s success has put a target on his back. Every time he takes the mat, someone wants to beat him.
Altieri was determined to rise to the occasion. After his sophomore year, he dedicated himself to an off-season program and the results spoke for themselves.
“I put a lot of work in,” Altieri said. “This was really the first year I did off-season wrestling, and it showed. I was in a lot better shape when the season came around than I was the last two years.”
Altieri breezed through the early rounds of the state meet, getting two pins and a major decision. In the finals, he faced Cumberland standout Cody Beaudette and had to dig deep for a 2-0 victory.
It was his toughest finals match yet, but he didn’t mind.
“I thought I could have wrestled better but I got the win,” Altieri said. “You’re always happy to win.”
Altieri was one of three state champions for Vets, and he went on to have the most success at the New England Tournament, where he made the semifinals before settling for a sixth-place medal.
Next year, Altieri will be looking for a better finish at New Englands – and he’ll be looking for state title No. 4.
“My goal is to win states and New Englands,” Altieri said.