BLOOMFIELD, NJ-- She may be a high school freshman, but Kira Pipkins of Bloomfield High is representative of a young woman, beyond her years, both athletically and in the classroom.
Pipkins will be traveling this weekend to Atlantic City, to compete in the NJSIAA state wrestling championships, for females. This is the second year that the state has sanctioned female high school wrestling. The sport has quickly gained a lot of popularity and Pipkins is excited about what she could accomplish, at Boardwalk Hall, from March 5-7.
"I'm ready to go," said the enthusiastic Pipkins, while sitting for an interview, along with BHS wrestling coach Ryan Smircich last week. "I had the chance to wrestle at the regionals (at Union High School) and that was exciting, with four mats, and a lot of fans. That was really cool. I can only imagine what it will be like in Atlantic City, in front of that crowd."
Kira is the youngest of three children born to Shantale and Robert Pipkins. She has two older brothers, Barak, who was a standout wrestler at Bloomfield High, and Raiden, who is currently a student, and wrestler, at BHS.
Kira has had a tremendous freshman year wrestling for the Bengals at 114 pounds. She finished third in the North Region, which qualified her for the state tournament and an assured NJSIAA medal in Atlantic City. Pipkins will take a 26-2 record into the state tourney, which includes 18-1 against females and 8-1 versus male wrestlers.
Smircich isn't surprised by he's seen from Pipkins in her first year of high school competition.
"In practice, Kira wrestles every day with the boys," said Smircich. "And she battles with them. They don't take it easy on her, and that's what the sport is all about. She's become a better wrestler because of it. She has the skill set to do well, and we've seen that already."
Pipkins has been wrestling since the third grade and attained a level of success in middle school. She admitted the jump to high school has been tough, but well worth it, too.
"When she wrestled on the recreation level, Kira would practice three times a week, for about an hour and a half, per practice," said Smircich. "Obviously, in high school, the practices are longer. We could practice five to six days a week, and then there are the matches. We have a full schedule. She's adapted well to it. The workload has doubled and sometimes tripled."
While Kira has put a lot of time into being a top-notch wrestler, she was also a talented gymnast, and enjoyed tumbling, before focusing on grappling.
Off the mat, she's done well in the classroom.
"Kira crushes the academic work load," said Smircich. "She takes tough classes and works hard, which is not surprising. She's the type of kid who you tell something once to, and she retains it."
And while wrestling is a big part of her life, Kira is also a talented artist, who enjoys painting. She also loves to read and is a fan of author Steven King.
Bloomfield has put together a strong female wrestling team. Kira is one of eight wrestlers on the roster along with Claire Daity, Angelina Faura, Jordyn Parker, Nataly Diaz, Giana Faura, Aniya Jimenez and Noura Kakadendi.
"I enjoy being around my teammates," she said. "We all work hard in the (wrestling) room."
While she appears reserved, Pipkins has a tenacity on the mat.
"I have a lot of friends who I've met through club wrestling," she said with a smile. "We get along, well. But during those six minutes (the length of a high school match, before any overtime), you're not my friend. When the match is over, yes, then we can be friends."
Kira and Zach Andruchowitz will represent Bloomfield at the state championships this weekend.
"I feel good," Pipkins said. "I'm looking forward to a good week of practice, then going to Atlantic City.'
Kira has made the adjustment to high school very effectively. She's enjoying the new challenges in her life, and credits her family for her confidence and continued athletic success.
"Coaching Kira is easy," said Smircich. "She's always in the right place, at the right time, and doing the right things. But also know that she's a kid and will continue to grow and mature. That's what it's all about. I'm just glad she's a part of this program."