BLOOMFIELD, NJ--The grind begins, but the end is also in sight.
The 'second season' of high school wrestling in New Jersey officially begins on Feb. 22, with the district championships that will be held at 32 different locations. Bloomfield High, which put together a tremendous regular season, finishing 25-6, will compete at District 9, which this year is contested at Livingston High School.
The top three wrestlers in each of the 14 weight classes at District 9 will move on to the Region 3 championships, which begin on Wednesday, Feb. 26, continue on Feb. 28 and conclude a day later, at West Orange High School.
The top four wrestlers in each weight class at Region 3 will punch their ticket to the NJSIAA championships, at Boardwalk Hall, in Atlantic City, from March 5-7. There are eight regions throughout the state, meaning that each of the 14 weight classes will be represented by 32 wrestlers, in Atlantic City. From the top 32, the competition will ultimately decide an individual champion for each weight class, with the top eight wrestlers in the respective weight, earning a prestigious state medal on the final day of the tournament.
For most of the season, wrestlers have honed their skills while helping their team find success in dual, tri and quad matches. While the districts crown a team champion, the focus also goes to individual wrestlers who can advance to the next round, and ultimately compete in Atlantic City and earn a state medal at the mammoth venue.
Bloomfield coach Ryan Smircich is looking forward to the districts for the boys, and the region championships, for the girls, which will be held on Feb. 23, at Union High. The top three finishers in each division, at the regions, for the females will also travel to Boardwalk Hall, from March 5-7. (There is no district tourney for the girls, just regions and then states).
"On the girls side, we are really excited for our eight wrestlers," said Smircich. "Four of them are seeded in the top five of the North region, with Kira Pipkins earning the top seed at 114 pounds."
Pipkins, a freshman, will take a 14-0 record into the regions on Feb. 23. In addition, she's also 8-1 when competing against the males.
Bloomfield's lone state wrestling champion, to date, was Art Cuffari, who won gold in 1987.
For the boys, Smircich likes what he's seeing from Gerald Vanbaelen at 120 pounds, Juan Millan (113), Zac Andruchowitz (182) and Dillon Jennings (195).
The performance of senior D'isaiah Ikarrea at 145 pounds could also be interesting.
"D'isaiah wasn't with us the last two years, and has been an awesome asset to our team," the coach said.