(Editor’s note: Look for a full-length feature on Amirah in Glory Days’ next digital edition, scheduled for March 16.)
By DAVE O’SULLIVAN
For decades, Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall has been the Valhalla of New Jersey high school wrestling. Just making it to the NJSIAA Championships is a big accomplishment and a feather in the cap of any wrestler who puts in the work and grinds his way to get there.
Last year, the girls started crashing the party, as the NJSIAA introduced regionals and state championships for girls.
Amirah Giorgianni, a junior at Mainland Regional, will be stepping out onto one of the eight mats today to begin her quest for a state championship. The former basketball player got a bye into the semifinals in the 180-pound weight class and didn’t have to wrestle in preliminary rounds on Thursday, so her hopes of standing at the top of the podium come down to two matches. Giorgianni, the No. 2 seed, takes on Haylee Adorno of Delran, a winner over Maria Taseva of Elmwood Park in the quarterfinals, in today’s semifinals at 2 p.m. On the other side of the bracket, top-seeded Kerly Borbor of New Brunswick faces High Point’s Lacey Hums in the other semifinal.
Giorgianni, who also has played soccer and softball during her Mainland athletic career, recently won a regional championship to garner the No. 2 seed at states.
“It felt amazing, having my family and my coaches there supporting me, and having confidence in me. Not just me having confidence in myself, but everybody else believing in me — I cried when I won. It was emotional for me because I didn’t see myself getting this far,” she said. “I’m very excited. I’m happy to see what happens (at states). We’ll see how it goes. I think it will be very overwhelming. I have some nerves. I’m just going to do the best I can and see what happens.
“Two things that really help her are, one, she’s very strong for her size and weight class, and two, she’s wrestling a weight class up,” said Mainland wrestling coach Clayton Smith. “She could drop to the 161-pound class — she’s close enough to cut down to that — but she had so much success at 180 that she said she’s strong enough and a lot quicker than girls in that weight class.”
Smith said the biggest challenge is going to be to get Giorgianni focused as quickly as possible, and not let the moment overwhelm her.
“You can get lost in there. She gets to experience this for the first time only one time. It’s like boxing, in every boxing movie you’ve ever seen they walk down that dark hallway and it feels like you are in a tunnel, then you step out and there’s Boardwalk Hall. The ceiling seems like it’s three miles high, so that’s going to be the awe-inspiring thing for her when she first gets on the floor,” coach Smith said. “But, honestly, she doesn’t seem to get too rattled. It’s going to be eight mats and a lot of people, but I’m just going to try to keep her focused on it’s about her. We’re going to focus on the opponent, and I think we have a good shot in our bracket to make it to the finals.”
No matter what happens, Giorgianni said she is committed to wrestling and plans to come back to the mats again for her senior year in December.
“I think (girls wrestling) is going to become something bigger,” she said. “When I first started, I didn’t realize there were a lot of girls doing this sport. This is a thing and other girls do this. I think it can become just as big as boys wrestling.”
Notes: Girls wrestling features 11 weight classes instead of the 14 on the boys side. Weight classes are 100 pounds, 107, 114, 121, 128, 135, 143, 151, 161, 180 and 215. … There is one other Cape-Atlantic League wrestler involved, Joelle Klein of Lower Cape May, who is the No. 2 seed in the 215-pound weight class.
Contact Dave O’Sullivan: email@example.com; on Twitter @GDsullysays