Thanks, Coach Torti

Thanks, Coach Torti

With his former wrestlers lined up behind him, North Providence High head wrestling coach Richard Torti speaks to the audience before last Thursday night’s meet against Johnston High at the Cougars’ wrestling-only gymnasium. (Breeze photos by Eric Benevides)
NPHS head wrestling coach honored for 25 years at the helm

NORTH PROVIDENCE – North Providence High School head wrestling coach Richard Torti had absolutely no idea that, prior to last Thursday night’s Division I meet against Johnston High, he was going to be recognized in front of a large gathering in the Cougars’ wrestling-only gym (known as “The Pit”) for his 25 years of dedicated service with the program.

Longtime assistant coach Bobby Arrighie even walked up to Torti 10 minutes before the scheduled start of the meet and pointed out Torti’s family sitting in the audience, and Torti was still in the dark about what was about to take place.

“I was a little confused,” Torti said, “but then I started looking around and I said to myself, ‘Oh, wow, a lot of my ex-wrestlers are here.’ “

That’s when Torti put two and two together and realized that most of the fans on hand were there to pay tribute to him and his magnificent career, which not only includes double figures in regular-season titles, four sectional championships, and nearly 250 victories, but also saw him create the town’s youth wrestling program and begin middle school teams at Birchwood and Ricci.

With 40 former wrestlers lined up along the edge of the mat in front of the Cougars’ bench, Arrighie, who wrestled for Torti in the mid-1990s, served as the ceremony’s emcee and spoke about Torti’s wrestling career, which began as an All-State wrestler at Johnston High, continued at Rhode Island College, and ended up as the head of the Cougars’ program.

Arrighie also spoke about what may be Torti’s best season, the 2011-12 campaign, which not only saw the Cougars repeat as Division I-South champions with a 13-3 mark, but also place fourth at the state championship meet – just 16½ points behind eventual champ Cumberland – and watch seven wrestlers hit the awards podium by finishing in the top six of their weight classes.

“All of his accolades are great, but everyone knows that’s not why he’s here,” Arrighie said to the audience. “Every wrestler in this room has stories about the influence he has had on their lives. Every day, he preaches about doing the right thing – meeting your responsibilities, being a man, being accountable, and representing yourself the right way. The sport of wrestling teaches you many of those lessons.”

Arrighie also reported that over the years, Torti has helped his wrestlers get into college and find jobs, and he’s even taken a few into his home to stay with his family during tough times in their lives.

“The list goes on and on,” Arrighie said. “He’s always loyal once you wear the singlet and pour your heart and soul out in this gym for this team.”

Arrighie and Kenneth Amoriggi, of the North Providence Wrestling Boosters Association, then presented Torti with a plaque, and the head coach took center stage to briefly speak to the audience and offer his thanks before focusing on his team’s match against his alma mater, which the Cougars won, 54-24.

“It was a little exciting, and I would have dressed a little nicer if I’d known this was going to happen,” Torti said with a laugh. “But it was just nice seeing all these guys I coached. I do feel like they’re all a part of me – they’re all my sons – and it was nice having them here, as well as my family.”

Torti is the second head wrestling coach in the state to reach a significant milestone, joining Cumberland coach Steve Gordon, who is in his 50th and final season with the Clippers. Torti, who is 49 years old, was asked if he also had his sights set on coaching for a half century, and he broke into a big smile.

“I’m going to try to go to 50, too,” Torti said with a laugh. “We’ll see what happens.”

North Providence High head wrestling coach Richard Torti, left, offers encouragement to one of his wrestlers during a meet on Feb. 5, 2015, at Johnston High against the Panthers. Torti, who is a former All-State wrestler at Johnston High and a member of the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame, picked up his 200th career victory that night when his Cougars rolled to a 51-19 win.