ANNANDALE, NJ - Hunterdon Central Regional High School senior Stephanie Andrade was part of New Jersey wrestling history last March when she was one of 10 to become a female state champion.
She contributed to more history Friday night when she and her teammates beat North Hunterdon 30-18 in Hunterdon County’s first-ever girls wrestling dual meet.
North’s old gym has been the scene for many wrestling milestones over the decades, and this was another.
“This environment here will rival most boys dual meets in the state except the really big ones,” said Hunterdon Central coach Jon Cantagallo-Rohm.
The gym looked and sounded pretty much the same as if the Lions and Red Devils’ boys were competing.
“Prior to the season, (North Hunterdon) coach Chris Hrunka and I kept going back and forth, ‘hey we are getting some numbers that are interested and we could put something together,’” said Cantagallo-Rohm. “We thought it could be really cool to have an environment like we do with the guys with these kind of rivalries. We finally nailed down the date, and this turnout was awesome."
The place was about filled to the brim, and the enthusiasm and passion befitted the milestone.
Andrade won the 127-pound state title at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City. But that vast venue doesn’t come close to offering the closeness between athlete and crowd, cheerleaders and parents they had Friday night.
“I think I was more scared to wrestle tonight than I was at the states because it was one mat,” said Andrade. “At Atlantic City, everyone (in the crowd) has the wrestler they are following and we were all out there together.”
Andrade said she believed she’d never experience what the boys do.
“It was pretty amazing honestly because I have always watched the guys wrestle under the light and I never thought the girls would ever get the chance of wrestling under the spotlight,” she said.
All eight bouts ended by fall, which had the entire match clocking in just under an hour.
Andrade won by fall in 46 seconds. Teammates Danielle McGann (114-121 pounds); Stehanie Andrade’s sister, Evelyn Andrade (100 pounds); Paisley Fox (128 pounds); and Rachel Aquino (160 pounds) all pinned.
Fox’s fall in 3:38 clinched the victory with one bout left.
Cantagallo-Rohm and his staff have been drilling the girls a few times a week.
There are between 15 and 20 girls’ wrestling teams throughout the state. Warren Hills is one, and he said that perhaps there’ll be one or two more before winter’s end.
“I want to try and get Warren Hills on the schedule, we are here, we are local, we might as well do it,” said Cantagallo-Rohm. “If we can pack the place like this, it’s good for the sport. It’s good for girls wrestling. This is just the start.”