No stranger to winning, John Altieri nearly didn’t have the chance to do that this season.
Already a three-time state champion heading into the year, Altieri tore his labrum during the early part of the regular season and was forced to miss the rest of the campaign.
But, against the odds, he returned to the mat for the first time since the injury at the state tournament and picked up right where he left off, winning his fourth consecutive high school state title – this one at 120 pounds – to put himself in an elite club of four-time champs.
Throw in the injury and the uncertainty, and this one was the most special of all.
“I can’t really explain it,” Altieri said. “It was the greatest feeling, getting a standing ovation, getting my hand raised. With everything that happened, I was on top of the world.”
Altieri is one of just four wrestlers in Rhode Island history to win the title all four years.
It almost didn’t happen.
Wrestling Cumberland’s Cody Beaudette – his chief rival – during the season, he felt a pop in his shoulder and knew something was wrong immediately. At the hospital that night, he initially heard some tough news.
“It was kind of up in the air,” Altieri said. “They told me that my season was done. I told them it wasn’t. I told them I was still coming back.”
He worked as hard as he could on the rehab, and little by little worked himself back into a position to wrestle. While he never quite reached 100 percent, he still gave it a go.
“You hear it all the time on ESPN about professional athletes – he had it,” said Vets head coach Brendan Friel. “He just came in and he just has that competitive drive, that inner drive.”
On the big stage, Altieri advanced to the semifinals where he defeated Beaudette. In the finals, he knocked off Hendricken’s Jason Davol for the title.
That secured his place as one of the school’s and the state’s best ever. He became the second Vets wrestler to win four in a row, following in the footsteps of Mike Meyers, who was a senior when Altieri was a freshman.
“After (watching Meyers), it wasn’t enough to be good,” Friel said. “He knew he had to do what Mike did to be great.”
Altieri will wrestle at Iowa’s William Penn University this coming school year.