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Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018: New Jersey nears final OK for girls wrestling

   Leading off today: New Jersey is the latest state moving to embrace the sport of wrestling for girls.

   A proposal to allow girls to compete for region and state championships beginning this winter was approved unanimously Wednesday by the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association's executive committee. The proposal gets a final vote at next month's executive committee meeting, but NJSIAA officials expect no opposition to New Jersey becoming the 12th state to officially sanction girls wrestling.

   "It's the right thing to do," said Princeton University coach Chris Ayres, who has worked with state officials during the process. "At the end of the day, I'm embarrassed that I haven't been trying to push this a little bit sooner. I see the girls competing. I see what they get out of the sport. Why should we cut out half of humanity for an amazing sport?"

   Under the proposal, girls will have the choice to compete solely against girls or also against boys during the regular season and up until the district championships. At that point, they will again choose between mixed or girls-only tournaments.

   New Jersey had 126 girls compete in wrestling last season according to NJSIAA data.

   Milestone win: Mark Finegan picked up career win No. 400 in girls volleyball Wednesday as Pelham swept Yorktown.

   "It means that I'm old," Finegan joked. "It means that I've been coaching for a long time and I really enjoy it, and I've had some great kids to coach and some great coaches to coach with, which has been the most satisfying part."

   Finegan joins Hen Hud's Diane Swertfager as the only active Section 1 volleyball coaches to reach 400 victories. Along with former Croton-Harmon head coach Robin Cooke, who stepped down over the summer, it is believed they are the only three coaches in Section 1 history to reach 400.

    • Speaking of 400 wins, I saw this Tuesday on Twitter regarding Marathon boys soccer coach Chip Stewart but was not able to pin down details as of early this morning.

   Week 3 football action: Here's the rundown of who the state's ranked football teams are playing in Week 3 of the season beginning Friday.

   Rickard remembered: Chester Academy's girls basketball coach Pete Rickard died on Sunday after a nearly yearlong battle with cancer. Rickard, who had taken a leave of absence last season, was 60.

   "He was so honest, he was such a great guy, he was so into the kids," said Chester AD Rolando Aguilar. "Right now, he's gonna go coach one of God's teams. And I hope to be part of that team one day."

   Rickard coached from 2007-16, twice taking his team to sectional finals.

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   Retired Oceanside coach dies: Roy Chernock, a highly successful track and field coach at Oceanside High from 1958-67 and then several colleges, died last week in West Palm Beach, Fla., at the age of 90.

   He compiled a record of 105-3 in dual meets at Oceanside and coached multiple state champions. His C.W. Post teams from 1967-73 were 42-1, and Chernock went on to coach at Baruch College and William & Mary.

   After retiring from William & Mary in 1990, Chernock coached at five Florida high schools.

   The role model issue: Basketball great Charles Barkley, probably better known to current teens as a TV analyst rather than perhaps the greatest 6-foot-6 rebounder in the history of the sport, made waves 25 years by saying in a Nike commercial, "I'm not a role model. Just because I dunk a basketball doesn't mean I should raise your kids."

   With that in mind, the girls tennis team at Guilderland has been riding the proverbial roller coaster for the past week courtesy of Serena Williams.

   Last Friday, players donned black tutus for their home match against Schenectady in a show of support for Williams in the aftermath of the mini-uproar that materialized after officials of the French Open said her form-fitting black catsuit would not be suitable attire for their tournament.

   Much of the tennis community and casual fans of the sport quickly spoke out in support of Williams, an all-time tennis great who wields great influence via her words and actions.

   Now, fast-forward to the past weekend, when Williams had an ugly, well-documented meltdown while losing the U.S. Open women's singles final to Naomi Osaka.

   On Tuesday, Guilderland played at Columbia and again wore the tutus.

   "I still see her pretty much the same way," said eighth-grader Isabela Parker, who came up with the tutus idea. "I know we all have ups and downs, and we shouldn't stop respecting someone just because they had one little thing.

   "And what she was saying through this whole big thing is that there have been men who have sworn at the umpire, and she was trying to make a point about the call. She didn't swear."

   While coach Debra O'Brien said Williams calling the umpire a thief "probably wasn't the best thing," but she can appreciate the pressures that athletes face.

   "We don't know what's going on behind the scenes, especially as an educator and a coach," O'Brien said. "I have no idea what kind of day this child has had, what's going on with their home life. People have issues and they have stuff going on. So can we forgive them for this? Yeah. If she turns out to make this a consistent thing, then obviously you start to lose respect for somebody like that. I think it was an isolated incident."

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