Two major changes to New Jersey high school wrestling came to fruition during Wednesday’s New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association Executive Committee meeting.

A proposal to offer girls wrestling as a standalone varsity sport complete with its own region and state tournaments beginning in the upcoming 2018-2019 season was unanimously approved by the NJSIAA’s Executive Committee.

Additionally, the three-day NJSIAA championship tournament in Atlantic City has shifted to a Thursday through Saturday format, ahead one day from the Friday-Sunday format that has been used for several years.

The historic proposal to create girls wrestling in the Garden State will be voted on again during October’s Executive Committee meeting and it is anticipated it will once again pass and be implemented for this coming season. New Jersey would be the 12thstate in the country to offer girls wrestling and the first in the Northeast.

NJSIAA officials said New Jersey had 126 girls competing in wrestling last season. Under the proposal, girls would have the option to compete against only girls or against both boys and girls during the regular season. Once the individual postseason begins with the district tournaments, they would have to decide whether to compete in the boys division or the girls division.

All girls-only wrestlers will qualify for two region tournaments – north and south -  at yet-to-be-selected sites on Sunday, Feb. 17, the day after the boys district tournaments. The top three wrestlers in each of the eight weight classes will then advance to the girls state tournament in Atlantic City. The girls tournament will begin on Friday and conclude with the state finals on Saturday, approximately 90 minutes prior to the 14 boys state championship bouts.

Starting this season, the state tournament will run from Thursday, Feb. 28 through Saturday, March 2 at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City. The state finals will now be on Saturday night instead of a Sunday afternoon, a move many in the wrestling community had been calling for. A tipping point for the NJSIAA to shift the format was Rutgers being selected to host the NCAA Big Ten Championships in 2020. The Big Ten Tournament is held the same weekend as the NJSIAA Tournament, running from Saturday through Sunday.


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