BLOOMFIELD, NJ — Kira Pipkins was going to join the Bloomfield High School wrestling team whether there was a girls team or not.
The sophomore is now a two-time state champion, has competed at national tournaments and qualified for the junior wrestling championship in Fargo, N.D., later this year. BHS has had a girls wrestling team for a couple of years now, but it never really mattered to Pipkins.
“Before I got to the high school I knew, whether there was a girls team or not, I would be wrestling,” Pipkins said in a phone interview with The Independent Press on May 21. “It’s nice to have a team because I’m not alone in the locker room, but I was prepared to wrestle the guys. It wasn’t going to make a difference.”
Her oldest brother was on the team at BHS, and Pipkins decided she wanted to try the sport after seeing him at matches. He made it to the state tournament in high school, so she saw how the competition worked. In the last few years, she’s dominated on her own.
“She’s made it easy,” Bengals head coach Ryan Smircich said in a phone interview on May 22. “When girls wrestling got sanctioned, she had been wrestling since second grade. All the boys already understood a girl can do this. So when the other girls came, it was no big deal. She was the bridge for us.”
Wrestling is Pipkins’ main sport; she tried volleyball out but didn’t take to it.
“I tried volleyball last year, but I got injured right before it started. So I was like, maybe this is a sign and I should stick to wrestling,” she joked.
She’s trained with former national champion Skylar Grote and has been training at clubs since the school wrestling season ended. To help with travel and training costs, the Bengals Wrestling Booster Club started raising money to offset expenses; people who wish to donate can write checks to the club and add Pipkins’ name to the memo line. Checks can be mailed to the attention of Athletic Director Steve Jenkins at 160 Broad St. in Bloomfield.
“There’s only two other girls in the state who can keep up with her, so you have to move around so she’s not wrestling the same two people all the time,” Smircich said. “We want to help cover her for longer than the summer. If there was ever a candidate who deserved it, this is the one.”
In her two years of high school wrestling, and all the years of wrestling before her freshman year, Pipkins said she doesn’t think too much beyond the match she’s about to wrestle in, no matter how big the stage is.
“I go in as confident as I can be,” she said. “It’s one match at a time; don’t think about it like it’s more than a regular match.”
Smircich said Pipkins is quick to be humble; she’s not one to brag about her wins or honor roll status. He doesn’t take credit, either.
“Her parents created this, the recreation created this,” Smircich said. “My job is just to steer her in the right direction. It’s because of her that we’re doing this; it’s bringing other girls out to wrestle in Bloomfield which is great.”
Pipkins is grateful to have the community behind her.
“Not everyone is going to agree with what you’re doing, but everyone I know has been so supportive,” she said. “I give a huge thank you to Mr. Jenkins, and the Bloomfield community for giving me financial support to go to some of these national events. Not everyone has that.”
Photos Courtesy of Anthony DiMatteo