Former Norwin wrestler headed to Nicaragua on missionary trip

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Saturday, June 24, 2023 | 11:34 AM


John Altieri has those pre-tournament butterflies and is anxious to see what the competition looks like.

“I’m excited to get going,” the former Norwin standout wrestler said. “I wish I could leave today.”

While the feeling is familiar, it not a wrestling tournament that awaits him in two months.

No, this is a brand-new challenge — one that was a major decision for him.

Altieri, a rising junior at Clarion, plans to be part of a missionary trip to Managua, Nicaragua, from Aug. 3-11.

The operation, aimed at helping children and abuse victims of sex trafficking, is a product of Hope Rising Church in Clarion, where Altieri has become a parishioner.

“I am not sure what we’re going to do specifically, but I know there is really bad poverty there,” Altieri said. “I want to go there with some clothes and help feed them and help them in school. I just want to make them smile.”

The humanitarian plan is to conduct youth camps, provide apparel and food and console the distraught people of the community.

“We talked about building a playground for the kids,” Altieri said. “I think this is going to make me more grateful for what I have.”

Altieri will be part of a 12- to-15-person group that also will include his teammate, Chase Cordia, an incoming sophomore at Clarion.

One day when Altieri and Cordia were cutting grass at the church, an organizer asked them if they wanted to be a part of the altruistic trip. They turned off the mowers and opened their minds to the notion.

Altieri, almost immediately, said he felt magnetized to the cause.

“I don’t know why, but it just felt like something that I needed to do,” he said. “God put us there. I want to help out. It’s an opportunity that I didn’t want to turn down. I want to have a better relationship with Jesus and God. These people in South America have nothing and need our help.”

While he did not consider himself a religious person growing up, Altieri has become more faith based in his college years.

“I had to do eighth grade a second time, and I went to a Catholic school back home,” he said. “That kind of opened my eyes to it. I like being involved in the church up here.”

Prayer, Altieri said, has played a role in his training and mental preparation for wrestling.

A 149-pounder when he arrived at Clarion, a Division I program in the Mid-American Conference, Altieri bumped up to 157 and plans to stay at that weight next season.

He had an 11-6 record last season.

“It helped the team out more,” he said. “I did some open tournaments and eventually redshirted last year. It was nice to not have to cut (weight) and I got bigger. Prayer has helped with my mindset. It’s not life or death. Going from my sophomore to junior year (at Norwin), I needed to change my mindset. When you’re close with God, you have a better chance of getting out of your own head. I want to let it all fly.”

Altieri is as dedicated to helping others as he is to wrestling.

“I’m not shocked at all (about the missionary work),” Norwin coach Kyle Martin said. “John has been a high-character, selfless individual since I met him. He’s the type of individual you want all of your athletes to strive to emulate.”

Humble and easy going, Altieri generally shies away from attention.

“I like to put others before me,” he said. “Sometimes that comes back to bite me in the butt. But it makes me feel good. This is something I felt I needed to do. This is important to do now. My time in wrestling will come.”

Altieri and the church are trying to raise money for the trip. His goal is $2,200 to pay for travel expenses.

Donations can be made at www.hoperisingcc.com/give.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a TribLive reporter covering local sports in Westmoreland County. He can be reached at bbeckner@triblive.com.

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