ROBBINSVILLE — There’s never been a better time to join a girls wrestling team in New Jersey.
At a busy, and at times pointed, NJSIAA executive committee meeting on Wednesday, girls wrestling became an official sponsored sport by the organization. Girls wrestling was approved by a vote of 262-0 with seven abstentions at last week’s annual full membership meeting – the vote total was revealed Wednesday.
Girls wrestling was provisionally sanctioned and has had individual state championships since 2019, but now it will potentially have its own team state tournament and a different rulebook than the one used for boys.
“This puts the schools on notice to treat this sport differently than your boys teams and let’s get serious about getting more girls wrestling,” NJSIAA executive director Colleen Maguire said. “Let’s get them their own coach and their own resources.”
The first point is for schools to have enough girls to fill out their own team. Maguire said the NJSIAA isn’t interested in running a state tournament when there would be multiple forfeits in each match. While the sport has prospered at the individual level in North Jersey, there is no school in the area able to field a full team of 12 girls in each weight class yet.
“We need full rosters,” Maguire said. “We need a bracket and a bracket means anywhere from 12 to 16 teams.”
The girls wrestling committee meets next week and will begin the process of setting dates and requirements for the sport. One consideration is to add a third region for the individual tournament.
Atlantic City has been the iconic spot for the boys wrestling finals in New Jersey. The girls also wrestled there the first two years, but the last two state championships were contested in Phillipsburg.
There are a number of girl wrestlers and coaches who would like to see the girls get equal billing in Atlantic City.
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Maguire said all options are on the table and hopes to have an update by the June meeting.
“It’s not so much schools adding girls at existing schools, it’s about how many schools will add the sport,” Maguire said. “As far as a long-term picture, who knows? The girls wrestling committee and we will go through all our dates.”
Limits on football games
There were multiple new regulations approved by the NJSIAA Wednesday involving football, including setting the maximum allowable games at 14.
2022 will be the first year in more than nine decades that the NJSIAA will sponsor group championships in football. This will mean an extra round of playoffs (from four to five), but the organization has cut the regular season to eight regular season games for most.
The NJSIAA needed to set the cap at 14 because a team – for example, Eastside —could play eight regular season games, plus a traditional Thanksgiving Day game and five rounds of playoffs.
Non-Public schools won’t have playoff brackets as big and can only play four playoff games maximum. They have the flexibility to play Week 0 and Week 9, which is the same week as the first round of the public school playoffs. In that case, they could play 10 regular season games and four playoff games to hit the 14-game max.
Power points policy nixed
Faced with the challenging task of rendering power points for teams that play out-of-state teams, the NJSIAA has decided to no longer include out-of-state games when determining the power points metric.
Maguire cited the issue of verifying the information on out-of-state schools, determining the correct size, grouping and their results.
While that responsibility should fall to the New Jersey coaches, it has become a big ask.
“It’s a lot of work for us to check those numbers,” Maguire said. “We try to spot-check as best as we can. It just becomes very cumbersome and I always question the integrity [of what’s reported]. Is it a reliable indicator of data? I don’t think it is. What is reliable is our membership.”
Out with video review
The most pointed conversation Wednesday involved the concept of using video to decide whether an official’s decision to disqualify an athlete from future competition after an altercation was allowable.
The topic came up when the NJSIAA approved changing it’s rules to note that it would no longer have video replay for football games. One committee member told a story about having video evidence that a hockey player was incorrectly fingered as being part of an altercation and disqualified for two games.
Maguire said that the organization can encourage officials to review video of any incident, but can not force them to do so.
Call for unity
The executive committee listened to a presentation from Moorestown school Principal Andrew Seibel on the benefits of adding unified sports to their district’s offerings.
Unified sports are a partnership of neurotypical- and intellectually-disabled high school athletes. The NJSIAA offers unified championships in bowling, basketball and track. The NJSIAA Unified track championships will be June 2.
More basketball games
The NJSIAA approved a rule allowing for a maximum of 24 regular season basketball games for member schools.
This was done in response to the decision to cancel the Tournament of Champions, which essentially added an extra week to the regular season.
Approved co-op programs
The NJSIAA approved the following cooperative sports programs for next year:
Bayonne, Belleville and McNair (ice hockey)
Clifton, Passaic Valley and Cedar Grove (ice hockey)
Morris Hills and Morris Knolls (girls wrestling)
Jackson and Jackson Liberty (gymnastics)
Wardlaw-Hartridge and St. Thomas Aquinas (boys swimming)
Morris Catholic and Pope John (fencing)
Sparta and Jefferson (swimming)
Bogota and Hasbrouck Heights (girls basketball)
Wallkill Valley and High Point (indoor track)
Glassboro and Pitman (field hockey)
Tenafly, Cresskill and Leonia (ice hockey)
Lakeland, Hawthorne and Waldwick (ice hockey)
South River and East Brunswick (bowling)
Darren Cooper is a peachy-keen high school sports columnist for NorthJersey.com. For full access to live scores, breaking news and analysis from our Varsity Aces team, subscribe today. To get breaking news directly to your inbox, sign up for our newsletter and download our app.
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Source: Asbury Park