Anthony Joseph Casali has many fond memories of Johnston High School.
He remembers that his father, Joseph Casali, who became the first All-State wrestler at La Salle Academy in 1956 and later served as chairman of the Johnston School Committee, once addressed the JHS Class of 1990, of which his brother Joseph Casali was president and also gave the opening address.
He remembers how his teammates – who still get together today – had a special bond and shared the thrill of many successes on the Panthers’ wrestling mat.
He remembers how his sister Dawn, who graduated in 1979, recorded statistics for the Panther wrestlers, who back then were coached by Chet Welch and Lenny DiMaio.
He remembers two years ago when he was among a select few, and a member of the first-ever class, inducted into the Johnston High School Athletic Hall of Fame.
Those memories are too many and too precious to count, so Casali is among the first people to purchase a brick for the JHS Athletic Walk of Fame that was dedicated late last year.
A 1978 graduate and a two-time second team All-State wrestler, Casali urged his former teammates and classmates to step up and do the same.
The Athletic Walk of Fame is located at the entrance to the Edward L. DiSimone Gymnasium.
“I strongly encourage people to buy a brick or two,” Casali said. “I remember when I was in school how Mr. [Edward] DiSimone was such a great guy and did so many things for all the athletes. And Mr. [Gary] Mazzie, he’s done such a super, super job in organizing the Hall of Fame. This is something that I hope a lot of people will support.”
The cost of one brick is $50 and Mazzie, who is the co-director of JHS athletics with DiSimone, explained that each brick may contain three lines of engraving, each with up to 15 characters. To purchase a brick or receive more information, call Mazzie at 233-1920 ext. 2123.
“We all need to support the Athletic Walk of Fame,” Casali said. “For starters, it supports our Hall of Fame. It’s also a nice way to remember a friend, classmate or even a teacher or coach.”
Casali, who for the past 25 years has worked in the plastics environmental business for a company based in Quebec, wrestled and played soccer at JHS. He was a two-time state champion runner-up and wrestled in two New England tournaments. After his sophomore season, in 1976, Casali won the Rhode Island College Takedown Tournament.
He wrestled in his sophomore and senior years but skipped his junior year.
“When I think about it now, I wasted my talent,” he said. “I wish I paid more attention to Coach [Welch] and my father, but I still had a great time. Hey, I was a kid back then.”
Still, Casali wishes he didn’t skip his junior season.
“I often think what could have been if I didn’t miss my junior year,” he said, adding that he still thinks affectionately about those days and the young men who competed alongside him.
Casali ticked off such familiar names as Joey DeQuattro, who now owns Pane E Vino Restaurant on Federal Hill, Dave Seddon, Dave Petrucci, Ron Williams, Mike Solitro, Richard Solitro and Greg Perrotta. Mazzie, like Casali, is hopeful that many of those one-time Panther greats will come forward and help support the JHS Athletic Walk of Fame.
While no date has been announced for this year’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony and dinner, Mazzie said that Aug. 1 is the deadline for all brick orders. Checks should be made payable to the JHS Athletic Hall of Fame and sent to Gary Mazzie, 345 Cherry Hill Road, Johnston, RI 02919.