History is made at first Essex County Girls Wrestling Invitational

They came to wrestling with different athletic backgrounds, each with their own unique story of how they started and found a place in one of the fastest rising sports for girls.

For Nutley’s Izzy Timonera, Isabella Bobadilla and Carina Rivera as well as Izabella Luna of Belleville, their respective stories may be different. But after Friday night they and six others will be forever connected as the first group of Essex County champions for girls wrestling.

In total, 49 girls, representing 11 different schools took part in the inaugural Essex County Girls Invitational at Nutley High School.

“It made me so happy to have one,” said Bobadilla, a senior and three-year wrestler, who credited former teammate Mariah Koster for keeping her involved with wrestling. “I wanted to do it for her.

“I thought that this would happen maybe next year or a different year. But I see girls wrestling is growing so much.”

Growing up, Bobabdilla didn’t wrestle or compete in any form of martial arts, instead she was involved in cheerleading. Bobadilla said a boy on the wrestling team encouraged her to give it a try. He didn’t last the season, but Bobabdilla stuck around..

“I had no fighting, no martial arts, nothing, just cheerleading as a base,” Bobadilla, who wrestles at 126 pounds, said. “I guess that gave me flexibility and the strength of lifting people (in cheerleading).”

It was just Bobadilla and Koster, Nutley’s first state medal winner, initially. This year, the group at Nutley has grown to nine.

Among that group was Timonera, who became Nutley’s first county champ of the night when she recorded consecutive first period pins at 100 pounds.

Timonera, a sophomore, used to do Brazilian Jujitsu and joined at the encouragement of her coach as a freshman.

“He was like, ‘hey, you’re really good at takedowns, maybe you should start wrestling instead,” Timonera said. I begged my mom (Rizzalynn) for three weeks straight. She finally let me wrestle and here I am now. I just fell in love with the sport.”

Rivera, a junior, also joined last year with a martial arts background, as a black belt in karate. For her, the opportunity to get involved in a contact sport made the decision to get involved with wrestling an easy one.

“Girls wrestling has been one of the fastest growing sports in the country right now. It is awesome,” said Rivera, who competed and won the final match of the night, the 165 pound final. “I know in our middle school we have a couple girls wrestling that haven’t before and I just really it just keeps growing.”

This year, Belleville has seven girls in the program after having zero last season. The star of the group has been Luna, who plays volleyball and used to also do competitive swimming.

“When I really got into it and started learning all of it, I wanted to keep going,” said Luna, who won the title at 152 pounds. “I think a lot of girls should try this sport. It’s so fun. Even though you could get hurt during the process, that’s just how you grow and get better.”

Bloomfield, which had four individual champions in Ahlexas Montalvo (120 pounds), Madelyn McLaughlin (132), Leanna Noel (145) and Saharia Quamina (236) took home the team trophy with 165 points. West Orange was second, followed by Nutley and Belleville.

According to Nutley head coach Mike DiPiano, plans for this year’s Essex County girls tournament were finalized during the boys tournament at Codey Arena. With the pool of wrestlers continuing to grow, DiPiano’s goal is to get next year’s tournament at Codey Arena as well alongside the boys.

“It’s awesome to see,” said Nutley head coach Mike DiPiano. “We started with one girl, Mariah. Mariah got Isabella so we went from one to two, then we went from two to four. Now we’re at nine and we want more and more.

“(Collectively as a county) we’re going to promote it,” DiPiano said. “We’re going to help grow girls wrestling. That’s what every school here was doing.

“I’m just proud of our girls, they wrestle tough. It shows you how hard they work and I’m proud to be part of the female wrestling movement.”

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Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, an organization he has served since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on social media channels such as YouTube, Facebook, and X, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to Kearny to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.