ROBBINSVILLE — There’s never been a better time to join a women’s wrestling team in New Jersey.
At a busy and sometimes tense NJSIAA executive committee meeting on Wednesday, girls’ wrestling was made an official sport sponsored by the organization. Women’s wrestling was approved by a vote of 262 to 0 with seven abstentions at last week’s annual general meeting of members – the vote totals were revealed on Wednesday.
Women’s wrestling has been provisionally sanctioned and has had individual state championships since 2019, but now it will potentially have its own tag team state tournament and different rules than used for boys.
“This puts schools on notice to treat the sport differently from your boys’ teams and take getting more girls to wrestle seriously,” said NJSIAA executive director Colleen Maguire. “Let’s give them their own coach and their own resources.”
The first point is that the schools have enough girls to form their own team. Maguire said the NJSIAA was not interested in holding a state tournament when there would be multiple forfeits in each game. While the sport has flourished at the individual level in North Jersey, there are yet no schools in the area capable of fielding a full team of 12 girls in each weight class.
“We need full rosters,” Maguire said. “We need a support and a support means between 12 and 16 teams.”
The Girls Wrestling Committee is meeting 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 was the iconic location for the men’s 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 female 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 about schools adding girls to existing schools, it’s about how many schools will add sports,” Maguire said. “As for a long-term picture, who knows? The Girls Wrestling Committee and we will go through all of our dates.
Limits on football matches
There were several new regulations approved by the NJSIAA on Wednesday regarding football, including setting the maximum number of games allowed at 14.
2022 will be the first year in more than nine decades that the NJSIAA will sponsor group football championships. That will mean an extra round of the playoffs (from four to five), but the organization has cut the regular season down to eight regular-season games for the most part.
The NJSIAA needed to set the cap at 14 because a team — say, Eastside — could play eight regular-season games, plus a traditional Thanksgiving Day game and five playoff rounds.
Non-public schools will not have such large playoff pools and will only be able to play a maximum of four playoff games. They have the option to play week 0 and week 9, which is the same week as the first round of the public school playoffs. In this case, they could play 10 regular season games and four playoff games to reach the maximum of 14 games.
Power points policy canceled
Faced with the difficult task of returning power points for teams that play out-of-state teams, the NJSIAA decided to no longer include out-of-state games when determining the power point metric. .
Maguire cited the problem of verifying information about out-of-state schools, determining the correct size, grouping and their results.
While that responsibility should fall to New Jersey coaches, it has become a big ask.
“It’s a lot of work for us to verify these numbers,” Maguire said. “We try to randomly check as best we can. It just gets really heavy and I always question the integrity [of what’s reported]. Is it a reliable indicator of data? I do not think so. What is reliable are our members.
No more video review
The most pointed conversation on Wednesday was about the concept of using video to decide whether an official’s decision to disqualify an athlete from future competition after an altercation was acceptable.
The topic arose when the NJSIAA approved changing its rules to note that there would no longer be video replays for football games. A committee member said he had video evidence that a hockey player had been misidentified as part of an altercation and disqualified for two games.
Maguire said the organization can encourage officials to review video of any incident, but cannot force them to do so.
Call for unity
The Executive Committee heard a presentation from Moorestown School Principal Andrew Seibel on the benefits of adding Unified Sports to their district’s offerings.
Unified Sports is a partnership of neurotypical and intellectually disabled high school athletes. The NJSIAA offers unified championships in bowling, basketball, and track and field. The NJSIAA Unified Track Championships will take place on June 2.
More basketball games
The NJSIAA approved a rule allowing 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 has 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 (women’s 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 (women’s basketball)
Wallkill Valley and High Point (inside trail)
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 an avid high school fishing sports columnist for NorthJersey.com. For full access to live scores, breaking news and analysis from our Varsity Aces team, subscribe today. To get the latest news straight to your inbox, sign up for our newsletter and download our app.
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