Nutley’s queens of the mat … Koster, Bobadilla give Maroon Raiders’ program a different perspective

Although he coaches three sports at Nutley High School, Mike DiPiano grew up around the sport of wrestling.

And DiPiano realizes that the sport has endured some tough times, especially during the pandemic.

But lately, DiPiano, the head wrestling coach at Nutley, sees what the future holds in wrestling – the addition of girls’ wrestling.

“I really think that this is the future of the sport,” DiPiano said about the addition of girls’ wrestling eventually as a varsity sport. “I think more girls will get involved in wrestling.”

DiPiano had two girls competing at a high level this season, namely sophomore Isabella Bobadilla and junior Mariah Koster, who finished fourth in her weight class at the recent state championships at Phillipsburg High School, said that she got involved in the sport because of her younger brother Michael.

“We are really close,” Koster said of the relationship with her brother. “I do karate with him. When he started wrestling, I wanted to give it a try.”

And her success in the 100-pound weight bracket gave her a place of distinction, the first ever girl from Nutley to earn a medal in the state championships.

“They are trailblazers,” DiPiano said of his two female wrestlers. “Mariah is the first to earn a medal. We want to see a handful of girls come out next year. The opportunities for girls are more now than ever.”

DiPiano plans on running a wrestling clinic strictly for girls later in the spring.

“I would really love to see this take off,” DiPiano said. “I think there’s a strong future.”

Bobadilla joined the wrestling team this season after missing last season due to the pandemic.

“I always wanted to give it a try,” Bobadilla said. “I used to watch some of the matches here. I always watched WWE wrestling. All of the moves they did intrigued me. One of my friends (Julia Ycaza) encouraged me to go out. At first, I thought that I might not belong. But I joined and came to practice.”

Like Koster, Bobadilla grew up with two brothers, one of whom Matthew played football and lacrosse at Nutley High.

“We would wrestle against each other in the house,” Bobadilla said. “One time, we wrestled into the stairwell and I broke the stairwell, so my mother told us, ‘No more wrestling in the house.’ So we went out into the yard. We would roll around like a bunch of roly-polies. We would come inside covered in dirt. So my mother would yell, ‘Take it outside.’ That’s how we settled things.”

The 126-pound Bobadilla finished sixth in the recent regional tournament, again in her first year of competitive wrestling. It meant that Bobadilla finished among the top 12 in the state. She finished second in the girls-only Bloomfield Tournament.

“I didn’t know that I won,” Bobadilla said. “I was so happy.”

Bobadilla said that she loves the social aspect of the sport.

“I’ve met and made so many friends from wrestling,” Bobadilla said. “Some of the other girls have helped me with moves. I used one of those moves to gain an escape to win a match. I’m pretty proud of myself.”

Koster has been wrestling competitively for a few years now. Finishing fourth in the state was a major accomplishment, forever holding a place of distinction.

“After I realized I’m the first one in the history of the school, I’m really happy,” Koster said. “My hard work is finally paying off. Ever since my freshman year, I really wanted to do well in the state tournament.”

Koster, who spent some of the season competing as the Maroon Raiders’ regular 100-pounder, said that competing with and against the boys helped her become a better wrestler.

“They’re stronger than me, so it helped me with my wrestling,” Koster said.

Koster competes in the offseason with the New Jersey girls’ wrestling team. She has received offers from Delaware Valley and Temple, schools that offer women’s wrestling as a sport. Temple has just started its women’s program.

“I’ve really worked hard to get where I am,” Koster said. “I like the fact that the boys haven’t treated me any differently. They all accept me and treat me like I’m one of them.”

Koster said that she has welcomed Bobadilla to the squad.

“I liked her attitude,” Koster said. “She really wanted to wrestle and I liked that. I don’t think the rest of the team went easy on her. They were all pretty friendly.”

DiPiano, who will not have a wrestler in this weekend’s NJSIAA state championships in Atlantic City for the first time since he started coaching, said that he looks forward to the day where there are more and more girls from Nutley standing on a podium accepting a medal.

“The sport is getting popular,” DiPiano said. “There’s something special about the girls. We are going to see more girls’ programs popping up all over. I get emotional thinking about Mariah being our first. You always have to have a first and Mariah is our first.”




From left, Isabella Bobadilla, head coach Mike DiPiano and Mariah Koster represent the trailblazers as the first female wrestlers from Nutley High School to compete at a high level. Photo courtesy of Mike DiPiano.


Nutley High School junior Mariah Koster (far right) finished fourth in the 100-pound weight bracket at the recent NJSIAA girls’ wrestling championships at Phillipsburg High School last week. Photo courtesy of Mike DiPiano.




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Jim Hague | Observer Sports Writer

Sports Writer Jim Hague was with The Observer for 20+ years — and his name is one of the most recognizable in all of sports journalism. The St. Peter’s Prep and Marquette alum kicked off his journalism career post Marquette at the Daily Record, where he remained until 1985. Following shorts stints at two other newspapers, in September 1986, he joined the now-closed Hudson Dispatch, where he remained until 1991, when its doors were finally shut.

It was during his tenure at The Dispatch that Hague’s name and reputation as one of country’s hardest-working sports reporters grew. He won several New Jersey Press Association and North Jersey Press Club Awards in that timeframe.

In 1991, he became a columnist for The Hudson Reporter chain of newspapers — and he remains with them to this day.

In addition to his work at The Observer and The Hudson Reporter, Hague is also an Associated Press stringer, where he covers Seton Hall University men’s basketball, New York Red Bulls soccer and occasionally, New Jersey Devils hockey.

He’s also doing work at The Morristown Daily Record, the very newspaper where his journalism career began.

During his career, he also worked for Dorf Feature Services, which provided material for the Star-Ledger. While there, he covered the New York Knicks and the New Jersey Nets.

Hague is also known for his announcing work — and he’s done PA work for Rutgers Newark and NJIT.

Hague is the author of the book “Braddock: The Rise of the Cinderella Man.”