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New Jersey to add girls wrestling to region, state championships

The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association unanimously approved region and state championships for individual girl wrestlers beginning this winter.

The NJSIAA Executive Committee must also approve the decision at its Oct. 8 meeting to make it official, which NorthJersey.com sports columnist Darren Cooper described as "a slam dunk."

In New Jersey, girls will compete in eight weight classes. The proposal calls for the top-three wrestlers in each weight class at the region competition to advance to the individual state championships at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, the iconic home for the high school wrestling championships.

Prior to region and state competition, girls will have the choice of wrestling against only girls or both boys and girls during the regular season.

Last season, 126 girls wrestled in New Jersey. The NJSIAA hopes that separate competitions will help increase the number of girls wrestling in the Garden State. For example, NJSIAA pointed out that Tennessee saw almost a doubling in participation after starting a girls' wrestling championship. The two states with the greatest number of girl wrestlers -- California and Texas, with approximately 5,200 and 4,000 girl wrestlers respectively -- both have separate competitions for girls.

Nationwide, 16,562 girls wrestled at 2,351 schools around the country during the 2017-18 school year, according to the annual National Federation of State High School Associations participation survey.

New Jersey will become the 13th state to add girls wrestling, joining six other states which have announced the addition of separate state wrestling championships for girls for the 2018-19 school year: Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Massachusetts, Missouri, and Oregon. These are in addition to the six states which already have separate state championship competition for girls: Alaska, California, Hawaii, Tennessee, Texas and Washington State.

As Princeton wrestling coach Chris Ayres pointed out in his presentation to the NJSIAA, girls wrestling is one of the fastest-growing sports in the nation at the high school level. "This was just a matter of time," Ayres told NorthJersey.com of the decision to officially sanction girls wrestling in New Jersey. "We are just going to be on the front end of it."

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