She never seem phased by the huge surroundings. 

She never flinched, when it came time to compete.

And in the end, Bloomfield High freshman Kira Pipkins has her name among the greats of her school's wrestling program, as she won the 114-pound state title, on March 7, at Boardwalk Hall, in Atlantic City.

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Pipkins rallied past Katrina Kling of Warren Hills, 6-4, in overtime, after a daring escape with seconds left in regulation had tied the bout. Pipkins became the first wrestler at BHS to win state gold since Art Cuffari, who won the school's first championship, in 1987.

Pipkins had her hands full with Kling, whom she defeated earlier this season.

"She was tough," said Pipkins. "I just needed to stay focused. It was quite an experience wrestling here."

The girls championship bouts were high drama at Boardwalk Hall, with classic introductions and dimmed lights.

"It was cool," said Pipkins, with a smile, as she took in the atmosphere after the bout was concluded. 

Pipkins had scored an early takedown for a 2-0 lead before Kling escaped to cut the lead in half. Pipkins extended her lead to 3-1 in the second, but Kling rallied back and took a 4-3 lead late in the match, on an escape and take down. Pipkins was trailing with less than 10 seconds left in regulation, when she escaped to tie it.

"(Kling) set up lefty, so I felt I had the chance to get out," said Pipkins. "I wasn't going to be denied in that spot. I saw the clock and knew there wasn't much time left."

In the overtime, Pipkins (29-2) hit a single leg for the winning points.

"Honestly, I don't know what the move was," she said. "I just went in deep and saw the chance to get the points."

It was also Pipkins' first-ever overtime bout, and her good conditioning certainly made the difference.

In the semifinals, on March 6, Pipkins had avenged a loss to Wallkill Valley's Samantha Larsen, the top seed, with a dramatic pin, in 4:42. Larsen had handed Pipkins her first loss of the season, in a girls match, on Feb. 23, at the North regions, which were held at Union High School. Pipkins eventually finished third in the region. 

Pipkins' parents, Shantale and Robert, were able to watch the championship match, from the Boardwalk Hall floor.

"I was so locked in, I didn't even look at my coaches during the match," she said. "I knew parents were sitting there, and that was great, but it was really intense."

 

Kira's dad was an Olympian, for the U.S team, in the luge, in 1992 and 1994. After the match, he kidded with his daughter.

 

"I'm so proud of you that I'm going to take you to my favorite restaurant," he said, with a smile. 

 

Bloomfield head coach Ryan Smircich was clearly overcome with the final result.

 

"It's just amazing," said Smircich. "I'm so proud of Kira. She did a great job. This is all about her today. I was just honored to be out there, with coach (Jason) Galioto, watching it. Both kids wrestled very well.