In 1983, wrestler John Place won the state championship representing Sparta High School .
In the years since Place’s victory, the Sparta wrestling program had sustained success and saw many talented wrestlers come and go, yet none of them were able to reach the pinnacle of wrestling in New Jersey.
Exactly 40 years after Place accomplished the goal, it was done again in February by freshman Paige Weiss.
When she first set foot inside the walls of Sparta High School last September, it was already clear that she was going to be a star.
Weiss, who picked up the sport at age 5 after winning multiple jiu-jitsu events, hoped to make an immediate impact for the Sparta team.
During the first week of practice, assistant wrestling coach Darren Bruseo predicted that Weiss would win a state championship and be the first Sparta wrestler in four decades to travel to Atlantic City and leave a state champion.
His prediction came true sooner rather than later, when Weiss won the state championship at 100 pounds with a 7-6 win over Ridgefield Park wrestler Theresa Zeppetelli.
After winning her first three matches at the regional tournament, Weiss lost to Zeppetelli in the final. Despite the loss, she was one of the qualifiers for states, where she got her second chance against Zeppetelli.
“It felt amazing winning states as a freshman. Especially going in as an underdog and avenging two losses I had earlier in the season,” she said recently.
Sparta’s wrestling head coach Daniel Trappe also saw a lot of talent early on in Weiss.
“We had very high expectations for her because we knew about her skill level when she wrestled for our youth program. So I wouldn’t say we were surprised, but we knew it was going to be a tough road to complete,” he said.
While Weiss aims to keep winning state championships during the next three years, she also hopes to “help grow the girls program” at Sparta High School.
This past year, the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) declared girls wrestling an officially sanctioned sport.
While girls wrestling has awarded individual state champions since 2019, this announcement gives schools the opportunity to build teams of only girls and to compete against other full girl rosters.
Weiss’s career at Sparta is just beginning. As she heads into next season, she aims to stay focused and continue to work hard to bring home more hardware not only for herself but for the team.
With her immense talent, her coaches believe that if she continues to work hard, “the sky’s the limit.”
“She’s just an amazing kid and I am so proud of her,” Trappe added.