TRENTON, NJ-- This past weekend, the best youth wrestlers from throughout New Jersey gathered at the CURE Insurance Arena in Trenton to grapple their way to the podium at the USAW-NJ Kids Scholastic State Tournament; the ultimate recognition for a youth (through 8th grade) wrestler in a state known for its wrestling prowess. The weekend was bittersweet for the wrestlers as it represented the final event of the wrestling season.
Bloomfield's 8th grader Kira Pipkins not only made the trip to Trenton to compete in the 14u 109 lb girls weight class bracket, but she also pinned her two opponents and took first place in the process. Kira, a Bloomfield Middle School student, has been wrestling for 7 years. That hard work paid off this past weekend.
The tournament isn't open to just anyone who shows up. Your spot is earned through a series of qualifiers throughout the state. The championship setting is intense with 12 mats running simultaneous matches as the crowd can be heard cheering (or mostly screaming) from all corners of the arena. Emotions are higher than normal because the stakes are so high.
If you thought wrestling was a boys' sport, think again. According to the NWCA, National Wrestling Coaches Association, the number of women who wrestle in the US has grown from 804 in 1994 to over 16,000 (as of 2018). Since 2004 women's wrestling is now a recognized Olympic sport. Furthermore, in October of 2018, New Jersey became the first state in the Northeast to offer wrestling as an official high school sport and only the 12th state in the US to hold a State Championship.
Now Kira can set her sights on Atlantic City, the home of the NJSIAA High School Wrestling Championships.