NJCU women’s wrestling unveils accomplished coaching staff

2019.Elena Pirozhkova 2a

Head Women’s Wrestling Coach

Former World Champion and two-time United States Olympian Elena Pirozhkova has been selected as the first-ever head coach of the New Jersey City University women’s wrestling program. Pirozhkova, 32, one of the most decorated American women in the history of the sport, will have the unique opportunity to develop the first-ever collegiate program in the state of New Jersey or the tri-state area, from the ground floor.

Pirozhkova [pronounced PEER-ahsh-COE-vuh], a 2012 and 2016 U.S. Olympian, was crowned the 2012 World Champion. A 2010 and 2014 World silver medalist and a 2013 World bronze medalist, she finished fifth at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. She wrestled for Team USA for 10 years (2007-17), wrapping up her competitive career in 2016-17 ranked No. 1 in the United States at 63 kg/138.75 lbs.

“Having a women’s program at NJCU is very exciting and I’m looking forward to being a part of this momentum in women’s wrestling in the NCAA,” said Pirozhkova. “NJCU is a great place to build a women’s program due to its location and resources. It’s exciting to start a new program and be part of history in the making.”

Shawn Tucker, Director of Athletics and Associate Vice President, added: “This is a great day in the history of New Jersey City University and our athletics program. We have hit a grand slam with the hiring of Elena Pirozhkova as our first-ever women’s wrestling coach. Elena is a world champion and an Olympian. She has done it all in the sport of wrestling and is a hero to young women in the sport around the country and the world. Her experience level cannot be understated. Coming on the heels of our historic announcement as the first women’s wrestling program in the state of New Jersey, the excitement level is very high. Adding Elena as the leader of this program will only elevate that excitement. NJCU will be a destination for girls from around the country who will want to be coached as a collegian by a true champion, both on the mat and in life.” 

Pirozhkova was a member of Team USA world championship and Olympic teams for nine straight years from 2008-16 and won an eight-time U.S. Open champion (2009-15, 2017). She captured the 2008 and 2010 University World championship, was a four-time Pan American Championships champion and a three-time Golden Grand Prix Finals champion. Pirozhkova was the 2010 USA Wrestling Women’s Wrestler of the Year.

“Elena Pirozhkova was one of the mainstays on our Senior National Team for a decade,” said Terry Steiner, USA Wrestling National Women’s Coach. “Elena is a past World champion with five World-level medals to her credit. She earned every bit of those medals. She started as just a normal kid and grew into a great champion for Team USA! There is no doubt in my mind that Elena will have a positive effect on the athletes she is around on a daily basis. I’m excited for Elena and also excited for New Jersey City University and the athletes she is coaching.”

Kyra Tirana Barry, the Team Leader for USA Wrestling Women’s Freestyle at the 2016 Rio Olympics noted: “I am thrilled that Elena will be continuing her wrestling career as a collegiate coach in New Jersey. Over the last 10 years, I have watched Elena grow from a young senior team participant into a talented and thoughtful student of all aspects of the sport. She has long supported her peers, mentored up-and-coming athletes and more recently been an active board member guiding Beat the Streets. As women’s wrestling moves toward NCAA Emerging Sport status, the sport will be fortunate to have Elena leading a program and contributing to collegiate wrestling’s development and success.”

At NJCU, Pirozhkova will serve as a head coach for the first time. During her competitive career, she has coached for Team New York at the Fargo Junior Nationals and has trained younger girls at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. She has also served as an instructor at numerous clinics throughout her competitive years and worked with Beat the Streets as a coach.

“Having this program so close to home is an amazing opportunity for me as a coach and for the women on the East Coast,” Pirozhkova noted. “I’m excited to build a great, high-level program here in Jersey City.”

2019.Ally Somera 1a

Assistant Women’s Wrestling Coach

Former World Team Member Ally Somera was named the first-ever assistant women’s wrestling coach in New Jersey City University history on the staff of head coach Elena Pirozhkova in Fall, 2019. Somera comes to NJCU with more than a decade of experience as a competitor on the mat.
Somera served as the head coach of the Nassau Community College women’s wrestling program in 2018-19. She was the program’s assistant coach in 2017-18.
The U.S. Army veteran is a nine-time All-American. Her national military athletic career spanned seven years from 2010-2017, culminating with her position as a 2017 U.S. Armed Forces Military World Team Member. She was ranked as high as fifth in 2017 in the 48 kg. Senior Division. Somera was a three-time U.S. Senior World Team Trial Qualifier in 2014, 2015 and 2017.
A 2013 Junior National Team Member, Somera was a bronze medalist at the 2013 Junior Pan American Championship. She first made her national team appearance in 2010 as a Cadet National Team Member.

“I knew Ally would be a good fit for NJCU because of her time and experience in the sport,” said Pirozhkova. “She has wrestled in college, the Olympic Training Center, and in the military World Class Athlete Program. She has been a head coach of a junior college in New York and works with the Beat the Streets wrestling program in NYC as well. With her wide range of experience, she was the perfect choice to help me grow this program to its full potential.”

Somera is currently completing a Bachelor of Arts in History at SUNY Old Westbury this academic year. Previously, she attended Cochise College in Arizona, graduating with an AS in Intelligence Operation Studies in 2017. She competed in one year of collegiate freestyle wrestling (2011-12) at 48 kg for Coach Shannyn Gillespie.
Somera is a 2011 graduate of Kailua High School in Kailua, Hawaii where she captured the 2011 Hawaii State Championship. A three-sport athlete for the Surfriders, Somera was a four-year varsity wrestler from 2007-11 for Coach Charles Kaulukukui. On the mat, she was a two-time Oahu Interscholastic Association (OIA) First-Team Selection, a two-time OIA champion and a two-time OIA East Champion as a junior and senior in 2010 and 2011.
Somera also ran two seasons of cross country (2007 and 2010). As a senior she was a 2010 Hawaii State Qualifier and an OIA First Team honoree. She also competed in four seasons of varsity judo from 2008-11 for Coach Stuart Fujioka.
Outside of making an impact in the sport of women’s wrestling, Somera has been cadet serving as an intelligence analyst for the U.S. Army for the last four years. She continues to train in MMA in her free time.

Born in Hawaii, Somera, 26, resides in Staten Island, N.Y. with her fiance, Robert.