Wrestlers warm up on the mats before the start. Friday March 2 2012 State Wrestling Championships, Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City. (The Press of Atlantic City / Ben Fogletto)

Ben Fogletto

The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association wrestling committee voted unanimously Thursday to move the team, district and regional high school tournaments one week later in 2013.

The move was made to accommodate a later date for the state individual wrestling tournament, which will be held at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City from March 8-10.

Pop star Lady Gaga announced earlier this month that she would perform at the hall on March 2. The state wresting tournament had been held the first weekend in March since 2007.

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Team sectional finals will be moved to Feb. 11, 13 and 15. Group state championships move to Feb. 17 at Pine Belt Arena in Toms River. Each of the 32 district finals will be held Feb. 20 and 22-23 and the eight region championships will begin on Feb. 27 and run March 1-2.

Howie O’Neil, the state tournament director and a member of the NJSIAA’s committee, said the decision was made to protect wrestlers from having to maintain competition weight for a 13-day period.

“It’s the best decision for the wrestlers,” O’Neil said.

The move, which is just for one year, put to rest a two-week period of uncertainty about how the NJSIAA would respond to the extended hiatus.

Under the new timeline, teams can schedule matches until the beginning of the team sectional tournament, thereby extending the regular season by one week.

For years, the individual wrestling finals were held the second weekend in March, but they were moved to the first weekend in March 2007 so that Boardwalk Hall could host the Atlantic 10 Conference men’s college basketball tournament. The A-10 tournament moves to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., starting in 2013.

Hammonton coach Dave Mauriello was pleased to hear that the season would return to the way it was prior to 2007, at least for this winter.

“It gives you an extra week to wrestle, so you don’t have to squeeze in as many of those quads or Monday matches to fit (all of your matches) in,” Mauriello said.

However, the state tournament could go back to the first weekend in March in 2014. The NJSIAA signed a contract with Boardwalk Hall to host the state tournament in Atlantic City for three years, starting in 2013.

When the deal was announced on Sept. 12, NJSIAA executive director Steve Timko said the first weekend of March is available in 2014 and 2015. A news release from the NJSIAA called the committee’s ruling for the 2013 dates a “unique, one-year situation.”

School administrators now have to adjust schedules to reflect the new tournament dates and there may be some problems with schools that host the district and regional tournaments. Timko said Thursday that while he anticipates most sites will remain the same, there is the possibility that some venues may need to change.

Ultimately, the wrestling committee — a 12-person group comprised of coaches, athletic directors and tournament directors from around the state — decided that protecting the 336 wrestlers who make it to Atlantic City in March should be its primary focus.

“This was the right thing to do,” O’Neil said. “There’s a lot of logistical things that need to be done because of it, but we’ve got a lot of time to do it.”

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