Girls Wrestling: Manalapan’s Jessi Johnson Wins Historic Third State title
By Casey Krish - Shore Sports Network Contributor
PHILLIPSBURG -- The top female wrestlers in New Jersey convened for the final time on Saturday when the NJSIAA crowned 11 individual state champions to conclude what has been a season unlike no other.
For years, the state tournament has concluded at the historic venue of Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, which introduced girls wrestling in 2019. This year, Phillipsburg High School served as the backdrop to the occasion – a school filled with plenty of wrestling history of its own.
On this day, it was a trio of Shore representatives who added their names to New Jersey wrestling history as Jayla Hahn of Lakewood, Jess Johnson of Manalapan and Mia Lazaurs of Raritan all captured a state championship.
For Johnson, Saturday marked the final chapter of her historic and groundbreaking career. She captured her third state title, this year at 161 pounds, to close the book on her illustrious tenure at Manalapan by pinning Kittatinny’s Kierra Hubmaster in 1:43 in the championship bout. Johnson became only the second girl in state history to win three state championships, joining Chloë Ayers of Princeton, who won her third earlier in the day.
“I wanted to be aggressive and go after my opponents,” Johnson said. “When you sit back and start to overthink about what your opponent is going to try and do is when things start to go wrong,”
Johnson cruised through the tournament, as well as the entire season. She won by fall in all three of her state tournament bouts. In fact, she finished her high school career undefeated over her last two seasons and with a final record of 43-1 with 39 wins by fall. She will continue her career at Lock Haven University.
“I’m so thrilled for everything I’ve accomplished over the past few years,” Johnson said. “I couldn’t have asked for anything more. When I look back I will remember all of it.”
Johnson is the eighth wrestler in Shore Conference history to win three state titles, joining Long Branch’s Luke Skove (1979-1981), Middletown South’s Glenn Pritzlaff (1992-1994), Central Regional’s Mark Worth (1996, 1998-1999), Lakewood’s Damion Hahn (1997-1999), Southern’s Frank Molinaro (2005-2007), Jackson Memorial’s Scott Winston (2006-2008) and Manchester’s Jimmy Lawson (2008-2010).
Hahn had a memorable run to her first state title this season. The sophomore defeated North Hunterdon’s Jodi Holder in the championship after scoring a takedown with five seconds remaining to rally from a six-point deficit. Hahn escaped to make it 8-7 and Holder was called for stalling twice in the final minute, the second of which tied the bout at eight with 13 seconds left before Hahn secured the winning takedown. In the semifinals, Hahn defeated Alexis Rosano of Eastern, 6-3, in the semifinals. Rosano defeated Hahn in the state tournament last season and went on to win the 143-pound title
“I wanted to avoid wrestling her match,” Hahn said. “She wants her opponent to be upright. I like to stay lower so I made sure I stuck with my style.”
Hahn won the first girls state title under the Piners moniker, but she attends Central Regional. The two Ocean County schools merged this season due to COVID-19 regulations. Her uncle is Damion Hahn, the New Jersey wrestling legend who is currently the head coach at South Dakota State.
“Oh, it’s great to be able to carry on what they’ve done in their careers,” Hahn said. “I love my family, but I want to be remembered for my own accomplishments and not theirs.”
Lazaurs capped off her career with a pin at 1:59 over Bloomfield’s Gianna Faura to win the 215-pound state championship. There were only 0.5 seconds showing on the clock in the first period when the ref slammed the mat to end the bout.
Lazaurs was a state runner-up during her sophomore season and waited two years to get her chance at redemption. On Saturday, that all came to fruition as the book closed on her high school career.
“I pushed myself to get back to this position,” Lazaurs said. “It was hard not being able to go to Atlantic City last year, but I made sure I’d be back.”
“I went out and did what I had to do, and it couldn’t feel any better.”
At 100 pounds, Julia Manolas of Manalapan was considered a contender. She pinned Julianna Van Ness in the quarterfinals before suffering an injury to her wrist in the opening seconds of her semifinal bout with Elizabeth Santos of Elizabeth.
With the injury default in the semifinals, Manloas had to medically forfeit her consolation bouts and finished sixth. She graduates as a three-time state placewinner after finishing sixth last season and fifth during her sophomore year.
Shelia Cortez of Lakewood placed fifth at 100. The Piners junior bounced back after losing her opening bout to force her way into the consolation semifinals where she lost to Aliyanna Payne-Parris of Newton on a last-second takedown.
At 107 pounds, Cloe Wong of Raritan bounced back after a quick pin in the opening round to force her way into a fifth-place bout with Marissa Plumeri of Steinert. It was a late takedown and escape that allowed Plumeri to secure the 7-4 victory. Wong finished in sixth place to give the Rockets their first of two state medalists.
Brick Township’s Gianna DeDreux captured a third-place finish at 114 pounds, becoming the first female wrestler to place for the Dragons. DeDreux pinned her way into the semifinals where she matched up with Princeton’s Chloë Ayers. Ayers was looking to become the first female in New Jersey to win a third state championship.
DeDreux trailed 2-0 nearing the end of the first period before Ayers was able to secure a pinfall with less than a second remaining on the clock. It was a heartbreaking last-second defeat for DeDreux, but she bounced back with a pair of first-period pins of her own to finish third.
Jackson Memorial’s Chloe Lawler provided one of the most entertaining matches of the day at 128 in her 15-14 quarterfinal victory over Kyara Montoya of Morris Hills. Lawler built a 7-2 lead in the first period before Montoya battled back in the second. Montoya escaped with under 20 seconds left in the match, but Lawler was able to rally with a takedown just before the final buzzer to secure the one-point win. Lawler then split a pair of decisions in her next two matches before succumbing to a pinfall by Karielys Reyes of Trenton in the third-place match.
Lawler was joined by a contingent from Jackson Memorial later in the afternoon that included five total placewinners.
Kamilia Bieszczad finished sixth at 143 pounds after winning by fall in the wrestleback quarterfinals to place.
Jackson junior Abigail Stanberry won her first two matches to reach the final at 151 pounds. It was in the championship bout that she lost by fall to Katherine Bott of Kingsway with one second remaining in the second period. Stanberry had won by fall over Bott in last weekend’s South Region final.
Jordyn Katz bounced back from a defeat in the semifinals to take third at 161 pounds.
Aleksandra Bieszczad wrapped up the Jaguars’ strong showing on Saturday by securing a fall in the fifth-place bout at 215.
Ana Gonzalez finished sixth at 180 for Lakewood.
Shore Conference Results
Isabella Santos (Elizabeth) p. Shelia Cortez (Lakewood) (0:24)
Julia Manolas (Manalapan) p. Julianna Van Ness (St. Thomas Aquinas) (3:47)
Isabella Santos (Elizabeth) Inj. Def. over Julia Manolas (Manalapan)
Shelia Cortez (Lakewood) dec. Julianna Van Hess (St. Thomas Aquinas) 5-1
Jaclyn McDowell Forfeit over Julia Manolas (Manalapan)
Aaliyah Payne-Parris (Newton) dec. Shelia Cortez (Lakewood) 7-6
Shelia Cortez Forfeit over Julia Manolas (Manalapan)
Izabella Frezzo (Becton) p. Chloe Wong (Raritan) 0:27
Chloe Wong (Raritan) p. Jennifer Estrada (Trenton) 1:18
Lililana Zaku-Ramos (Kittatiny) p. Chloe Wong (Raritan) 1:50
Marissa Plumeri (Steinert) dec. Chloe Wong (Raritan) 7-4
Gianna DeDreux (Brick Twp.) p. Soraya Safforld (Belleville) 0:52
Chloe Ayers (Princeton) p. Gianna DeDreux (Brick Twp.) 2:00
Gianna DeDreux (Brick Twp.) p. Sophia Hibbs (Kingsway)
Gianna DeDreux (Brick Twp.) p. Lennix Horsburgh (Bound Brook) 1:52
121 – no wrestlers
Chloe Lawler (Jackson Memorial) dec. Kyara Montoya (Morris Hills) 15-14
Gabriella Miller (Old Bridge) dec. Chloe Lawler (Jackson Memorial) 7-0
Chloe Lawler (Jackson Memorial) dec. Amanda Connors (Northern Highlands) 6-0
Karielys Reyes (Trenton) p. Chloe Lawler (Jackson Memorial) 4:15
135 – no wrestlers
Jodi Holder (North Hunterdon) p. Kamilia Biesczad (Jackson Memorial) 0:39
Jayla Hahn (Lakewood) dec. Jenna Filieri (Lodi Immaculate) 6-1
Jayla Hahn (Lakewood) dec. Alexis Rosano (Eastern) 6-3
Kamilia Blesczad (Jackson Memorial) p. Presley Fox (Hunterdon Central) 5:30
Alexis Rosano (Eastern) p. Kamilia Blesczad (Jackson Memorial) 0:38
Sophia Lombardo (High Point) p. Kamilia Blesczad (Jackson Memorial) 1:30
Jayla Hahn (Lakewood) dec. Jodi Holder (North Hunterdon) 10-8
Abigail Sanberry (Jackson Memorial) p. Gabby Shevlin (St. Thomas Aquinas) 1:13
Abigail Sanberry (Jackson Memorial dec. Rachel Forsman (Eastern) 5-2
Katherine Bott (Kingsway) p. Abigail Sanberry (Jackson Memorial) 3:58
Jordyn Katz (Jackson Memorial) p. Jordyn Brannick (Newton) 0:43
Jess Johnson (Manalapan) p. Noelle Gaffney (High Point) 2:25
Kierra Hunmaster (Kittatinny) dec. Jordyn Katz (Jackson Memorial) 4-1
Jess Johnson (Manalapan) p. Donna Walker (New Brunswick) 1:58
Jordyn Katz (Jackson Memorial) p. Peyton Reiger (Kingsway) 1:38
Jordyn Katz (Jackson Memorial) p. Donna Walker (New Brunswick) 1:21
Jess Johnson (Manalapan) p. Kierra Hubmaster (Kittatinny) 1:42
Maria Taseva (Elmwood Park) p. Ella Yanuzzelli (Southern) 0:57
Kelly Borbor (New Brunswick) p. Ana Gonzalez (Lakewood) 3:42
Amanda Pace (North Bergen) p. Gina Novello (Jackson Memorial) 1:53
Esther Gratia (West Orange) Forfeit over Ella Yanuzzelli (Southern)
Ana Gonzalez (Lakewood) p. Gina Norvello (Jackson Memorial) 0:43
Hannah Dahl (Pennsauken) dec. Ana Gonzalez (Lakewood) 7-0
Esther Gratia (West Orange) p. Ana Gonzalez (Lakewood) 2:54
Lacey Hums (High Point) p. Aleksandra Biesczad (Jackson Memorial) 1:03
Mia Lazaurs (Raritan) p. Brithney Lachira (West Orange) 0:55
Mia Lazaurs (Raritan) p. Marissa DiPaolo (West Morris) 2:33
Aleksandra Biesczad (Jackson Memorial) p. Apryl Coffman (St. Thomas Aquinas) 2:23
Marissa DiPaolo (West Morris) p. Aleksandra Biesczad (Jackson Memorial) 2:29
Aleksandra Biesczad (Jackson Memorial) p. Evelyn Santana (Cherry Hill West) 0:57
Mia Lazaurs (Raritan) p. Gianna Faura (Bloomfield) 1:59
LOOK: Here are the 25 best places to live in New Jersey