NJSIAA moving forward with plans for girls' wrestling

Photos – local – AP 070216026404
Action in the girls’ wrestling state championships in Washington, one of 10-12 states that offer the sport.

The NJSIAA has begun the process of adding girls’ wrestling as a sanctioned sport.

“That’s where we’re headed,” said Bill Bruno, the NJSIAA assistant director who oversees wrestling. “It’s time.”

Bruno said Wednesday at the final executive committee meeting of the school year that NJSIAA officials hope to stage a regional and state wrestling tournament for girls  starting in 2019.

Initially, the competition would be considered a division of boys’ wrestling with the goal of establishing girls’ wrestling as a varsity sport in the near future.

“Why not now?” Bruno said. “Why wait any longer?”

Bruno said 128 girls were involved in New Jersey high school wrestling last season, competing against boys.

“We want to get away from girl against boy,” Bruno said. “That’s lose-lose.”

Bruno said the NJSIAA would initiate the process of creating more opportunities for girls to compete against each other by submitting a proposal to the organization’s program-review committee in September.

If approved, the proposal will need to pass two votes by the executive committee, likely in October and November.

Bruno said that if the proposal passes through the legislative steps, the first regional tournament for girls’ wrestling will be held in late February, at the same time and perhaps the same site as one of the eight boys’ regional tournaments.

Bruno said the plan would be for the top six or eight girls in each weight class to advance to the state championship, which would be held in conjunction with the boys’ state championships in Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.

Bruno said weight classes likely would be established in January. During the regular season, girls still would be able to compete boys.

“This would just be for the state tournament to start,” Bruno said of the girls-only competition.

Bruno said about 10 to 12 states offer  wrestling for girls. The sport would be the 32nd sanctioned by the NJSIAA.

“It’s going to happen,” Bruno said. “Five years from now, maybe sooner, this is where we’re going to be.”

In a related matter, Bruno said the NJSIAA was looking at moving the state wrestling championships at Boardwalk Hall to a Thursday-Friday-Saturday format, starting next March. The tournament has been run on a Friday-Saturday-Sunday schedule.

One reason for the proposed change, which would be part of a new three-year contract with Boardwalk Hall, would be to stage the state finals Saturday night. Another would be a lower cost for hotel rooms for visitors.

Another key reason for the switch is that Rutgers will host the Big Ten wrestling championships in 2020, with the title bouts set for Sunday.

“That would enable our wrestling fanatics in this state to see the high school championships and get to Rutgers for those finals,” Bruno said.

One concern expressed by some executive committee members is that wrestlers and students wishing to watch the competition would miss school on Thursday and Friday.

Bruno said the NJSIAA would seek feedback from schools on the matter but noted that under the current format, many athletes who compete on Sunday often miss school on the following Monday.