Princess Altisi plans on improving on last year's runner-up finish
AZTEC — Princess Altisi can endure the pressures of the big stage.
She made the 2018 state wrestling finals as an eighth-grader at Shiprock. Even if it took her several minutes, she found ways to gain the upper hand in most matches. More important, she figured out how to gradually put away foes a bit faster each time.
Although she didn't quite win a state title, settling for the runner-up spot, her confidence swelled.
Now a battle-tested freshman suiting up for Aztec, Altisi is primed to take state now and for years to come.
"At first, I was the attacking wrestler. But now, I think about (matches), and I have to think smart," Altisi said. "I kept thinking about (the state finals and said), 'You know what, I can do this. I'm not going to give up.' I was only an eighth-grader (last year), and I made it to the finals."
The Aztec girls wrestling program was dealt a significant blow this season, as defending state girls wrestling champ Bella Wells did not return for her senior year in hopes of concentrating on academics and becoming Aztec's class valedictorian. But Altisi's addition to the team helped soften that blow.
Altisi had to spend the first two weeks of practice acclimating to the new environment, but she has adjusted in a hurry.
She's already won two tournament titles (the Las Vegas, Nevada, Holiday Classic and the Doc Wright Invitational) this season and took second place in the 160-pound division at Friday's inaugural in-season girls wrestling tournament in Aztec.
"We're pretty excited for her to see what she does in February," coach Monte Maxwell said. "She's definitely going to win (more) tournaments, and she's going to score a lot of points. She gets after it, and she doesn't let up."
Altisi made a name for herself in her state semifinals win last year with one of her go-to moves, the arm jab. Altisi grabbed the upper bicep of Mayfield's Letizia Pereyra and threw her over, taking control from there.
Altisi's also worked extensively on her leg shot, specifically finding that perfect time to grab hold of foes and keeping them from escaping.
"At first, I never knew how to exactly shoot ... I'd shoot, but they'd be far away. But now when I shoot, they'd be close up," Altisi said. "(Opponents are) having trouble responding quickly."
To ensure she can set up her arm jab and leg shot quicker, Altisi said she needs to move around the circle more often and not just linger in a certain spot.
Now that she competes for a state wrestling power in Aztec, Altisi is primed for future glory.
"I am expecting to be a state champion this year," Altisi said.
Matt Hollinshead covers sports for the Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.