John Peterson attended a small school, the University of Wisconsin at Stout, graduating in 1972. At the 1972 Olympics, he was defeated by the USSR’s Levan Tediashvili, who would later defeat his brother, Ben, at the 1976 Olympics. After college, John Peterson competed for Athletes-in-Action and had his best years in 1975 and 1976. He won the AAU Championship in both years was champion at the Midlands Tournament in 1975. In Montréal he defeated another Soviet, Viktor Novozhilov, to win the middleweight division. He later became a wrestling coach with Athletes-in-Action.