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New Jersey City University Women's Wrestling Team Making History As Sport's Popularity Grows Nationwide

JERSEY CITY, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- For the past three years, girls wrestling has been a varsity sport in New Jersey, but now those athletes can take their talents to the next level.

Sandra Guerrero is the defending high school girls state champion.

"I don't feel like I'm making history, but I know when I'm older and I tell my kids about it they're gonna be like, 'Wow, you were the first team?' It's gonna feel good," she told CBS2's Steve Overmyer.

The New Jersey City University women's wrestling team is the first of its kind in the state. (Credit: CBS2)

Now, she's the captain of the New Jersey City University women's wrestling team, the first of its kind in the state.

"I love being a part of history. I started wrestling at 8, so it's not new to me. It's new to everyone else," Guerrero said.

Wrestling is a sport dominated by men; these women are pioneers.

They're led by a coach who's a two-time world champion and one of the most decorated women's wrestlers in American history -- Elena Pirozhkova.

"It's really rewarding. I can see the fire in these girls' eyes. I can see they really want to train and they really want to win. And the thing is, they have a realistic chance," Pirozhkova said.

They'll be going to qualifying for the women's national team. A decade ago, this sport had 6,000 athletes nationwide. Now, it's more than 20,000.

"There's a lot more younger females right now ... and they look up and they see, wow, like, there's women in college, like, I can be a college athlete,'" Pirozhkova said.

The New Jersey City University women's wrestling team is the first of its kind in the state. (Credit: CBS2)

The NCAA named women's wrestling an emerging sport, which means they're just one step away from becoming fully sanctioned by the NCAA.

"What would it mean to the university to get sanctioned?" Overmyer asked.

"I mean, tremendous. This is a prime location for women's wrestling. The state of New Jersey has been a hotbed for men's competitive wrestling for years. Now women's wrestling on the high school circuit has really made a name for themselves," said Shawn Tucker, the school's associate vice president and director of athletics.

Wrestlers aren't limited by their size or strength or gender. Success isn't limited to those who get their hands raised at the end of a match. It's measured by how you show up.

"There's a saying in wrestling, 'Once you've wrestled, everything in life is easy,'" Pirozhkova said. "If you work this hard here and go out in the real world and work this hard, you'll accomplish anything you want. That's what I want in the end. I want you guys to learn to be successful people."

Because sometimes it's not about being the first, it's about being your best.


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