When the long-standing Bloomfield Holiday Wrestling Tournament was discontinued three years ago, there was a sense of sadness. But this year, it was revitalized on Dec. 29, with an all-female program.
And to say the event was a success, at George Cella Gymnasium, on the campus of Bloomfield High, might be an understatement.
The NJSIAA instituted female wrestling on the high school level for the 2018-2019 school year. And with that, a new era of young grapplers are getting the chance to compete.
Ryan Smircich, Bloomfield’s head wrestling coach, helped put the Bloomfield Holiday Tournament together this year, but Smircich deferred most of the credit to long-time assistant coach and former Bengals standout wrestler, Jason Galioto.
Bloomfield High wrestling coach Ryan Smircich (right) and Belleville assistant Jay Isip enjoyed the Bloomfield Holiday Tournament, in its new format. (Click on photo for larger image)
“Jason is a whiz with the computer,” said Smircich. “And he got this tourney off and running in a big way today. But just as important, I’m so proud of all these young ladies, out there competing. This is a really tough sport, and I have the utmost respect for any girl who can compete in wrestling. I really do, and this is why it’s such a wonderful event today. These kids deserve this, and I hope they have fun. We have a great fan turnout today, and we have about 60 girls here, from 40 schools. This is great.”
DePaul’s Haley Perez (center) won the 127-pound title with an excellent all-around performance. (Click on photo for larger image)
The tournament was first class in every way. The officials included some of the best in Northern New Jersey, including Vinnie Russo, one of the most respected high school wrestling referees in New Jersey.
“Having Vinnie here, along with a number of highly experienced refs was important,” said Smircich. “We wanted the girls to get the best on the mat, as far as officials who have worked on the biggest stage in high school wrestling. The officials not only worked, they also encouraged the kids on take downs and technique. And the coaches, most of who work with the boys at their schools, were also tremendous.”
The original Bloomfield Holiday Wrestling Tournament lasted 52 years, before ending in 2015. Then Bloomfield head coach Sam Fusaro noted the changing of conferences for most of the teams which used to participate in the tournament, as a main reason for its decline.
When Smircich saw the opportunity to bring back the tournament, the girls competing at the ‘new’ gym in Bloomfield, seemed like the perfect idea.
Belleville’s Alisa Safforld (right) wrestled a tremendous match in the title bout against a nationally ranked opponent. (Click on photo for larger image)
“We have new stands and new lighting in the gym and it looks great,” said Smircich. “There’s a lot of history here.”
Locally, Belleville High advanced two wrestlers to the championship bout. Alisa Safforld did a tremendous job, advancing to the 103-pound final before losing a hard-fought, 7-3 decision to Parsippany’s Sydney Petzinger.
Bloomfield’s Claire Daity turned in a good effort on her home mat. Photo by Jerry Simon. (Click on photo for larger image)
“I thought Alisa did a great job” said Belleville assistant coach Jay Isip, who coached the Bucs today, as the boys were also competing, at home, in a quad match. “She wrestled a kid who had finished eighth in the country in freestyle at Fargo (North Dakota). Alisa has been wrestling a little over a year and went six full minutes with Sydney. I can’t say enough about the effort. She’s worked so hard.”
Also advancing to the finals for Belleville was Jeymarie Reyes. “Again, a great job to get to the finals,” said Isip of Reyes. “Jeymarie wrestled well.”
Jay Isip congratulates Jeymarie Reyes on a good performance. (Click on photo for larger image)
In addition, Soraya Safforld, Asmaa Embaby and Krystal Araujo did a good job for the Bucs.
DePaul’s Haley Perez was outstanding in winning the 127-pound championship and becoming the first Spartan to win an NJSIAA-sanctioned women’s wrestling tournament. Many of Perez’s male teammates were at the Powerade Wrestling Tournament in Pennsylvania, and while DePaul head coach Keith Karsen couldn’t be in Bloomfield, he was ecstatic upon learning of Perez’s championship.
Bloomfield had four wrestlers compete, in Claire Daity, Giana Faura, Angelina Faura and Jordyn Parker.
Jay Isip congratulates Belleville’s Asmaa Embaby on a good win. (Click on photo for larger image)
There were seven championship bouts to finish out the day. The wrestlers all competed hard, but were incredibly gracious in victory, and defeat. I spoke to a number of coaches at the tournament, who all said that the girls on their respective team were doing a great job in practice, on a daily basis.
Fusaro, the now-retired Bloomfield coach, was on hand, and couldn’t help but be impressed with the talent on the mat.
“Those kids really went after it,” said Fusaro. “I really enjoyed this. And I have to go congratulate that kid from Belleville (Alisa Safforld). She wrestled a nationally ranked girl and battled for six tough minutes. That was fun to watch.”
Smircich was proud of the way the entire community came together.
“Bloomfield has a rich history in the sport of wrestling,” the coach said. “Organizing a tournament of this size and importance is made so much easier by the support of Bloomfield’s school administration and hard work of our Bengal Wrestling Booster Club. We are proud to provide this opportunity for girls’ wrestling. As a team, and as the Bloomfield community, we wish them luck.”
A new era of wrestling is underway, and let’s hope this is just the beginning of some great times for young ladies on the wrestling mat.