All Daily Record Wrestling Athlete of the Year: Dillon Artigliere of Roxbury

All Daily Record Wrestling Athlete of the Year: Dillon Artigliere of Roxbury

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All Daily Record Wrestling Athlete of the Year: Dillon Artigliere of Roxbury

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So, what’s it like to be a high school state wrestling champ? Roxbury’s Dillon Artigliere knows.

From the moment the clock struck 0:00 on the Boardwalk Hall mat, to when he gathered up his gear, to when he sat down in his car and made the ride home up the Garden State Parkway, life couldn’t be sweeter.

It simply hasn’t been the same. Perhaps it never will be.

The 160-pound junior completed an undefeated season when he beat East Brunswick’s Jonathan Schleifer, 6-1, for the state championship on March 10 in Atlantic City. Ever since — well, Artigliere has to pinch himself every now and then to make sure this is all real.

When he returned to Roxbury High School, the morning announcements honored him as a state champion. Ever since, he has been the recipient of handshakes, hugs and well-wishes from fellow students and faculty too numerous to count.

“It’s been great,” he said. “The drive home from Atlantic City, the whole ride home … I was in awe. The whole time has been amazing.”

State championships don’t come around too often. Artigliere knows this full well after having placed fifth during his sophomore year. He reached the state semifinals but wound up losing a tough 3-1 match to Trenton’s eventual state champion Raamiah Bethea.

This time, Artigliere simply would not be stopped. He finished the year 48-0 and won Morris County, District 2 and Region 1 championships. Those are titles most wrestlers would do anything for, but in Dillon Artigliere’s world, they were not enough.

So when he reached the top of the mountain by beating Schleifer, he felt both extreme joy and relief. The happiness simply has not stopped. All of the time in the sport has finally paid off.

“I can’t even imagine how many hours have gone into this,” Artigliere said. “From being at all of the tournaments over the years waiting for my matches, to working out, to driving to all of the tournaments … this makes it all worth it.”

The journey began when he was 4. His father, Ralph, an accomplished wrestler while growing up in Madison, began coaching youth wrestling in Roxbury. He never thought to bring Dillon along, not even to watch.

“The wrestling director, Dave Stierli, said, ‘Why not bring your son?’ ” Ralph recalled.

So the father brought the son, and the rest, of course, is history. Dillon rolled around on the mats, and Ralph soon noticed that there was something special taking place.

“When he was little, he picked up moves very quickly,” he said. “When he was 7 or 8, he saw someone do a cement job and, without ever having been taught, he did it in a match. For a young kid like that to have the coordination to do that, without ever practicing it … you just don’t see that too often. I had been coaching in Madison Tri-County for 10 years and I’d never seen anyone do that without practicing it first.”

Another time as a youth, Dillon was wrestling at a national tournament at Penn State and was trailing the entire match. But then, with the final seconds ticking away, out of nowhere, he reversed his opponent to his back and won the match. The only time he had the lead was when the match had ended.

Again, young Dillon Artigliere had done something that only more experienced, polished wrestlers do — not little kids.

“I looked up at my wife (Amy) in disbelief,” Ralph recalled of that match. “Mat sense like that you just can’t teach. It’s just a gift.”

Dillon Artigliere continued using that gift right into Roxbury, when he was good enough to pin his opponent in under one minute and win Outstanding Wrestler at Region 1 as a freshman. But it wasn’t until his junior year when he took it up a notch and won a state championship, the ultimate goal of any high school wrestler.

He is now part of Roxbury wrestling lore. The walls in Roxbury High School’s wrestling room are decorated with lists of Gaels who have won district and region championships. There is another listing of state champions in the wrestling room, as well as a listing in the gymnasium. Dillon Artigliere added his name to the lists.

As difficult as winning a state championship can be, repeating is even tougher. Only 11 state champions in Morris County history have repeated. Roxbury has never had a state champion go on to win it a second time.

Dillon Artigliere would like to be the first.

He has always been regarded as a terrific wrestler and a state contender. His resume has changed. Next December, from the moment Artigliere puts on his singlet and begins warming up for the Dover Tournament, he’ll be looked upon as Dillon Artigliere — state champion.

And he is ready for the extra scrutiny.

“I have to keep putting the time in,” he said. “Next year won’t be easy, so I’ll have to keep working hard, maybe even take it up a notch.”

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