Queens of the Shore: 12 Standouts Claim Girls Wrestling Shore Conference Tournament Championships
WEST LONG BRANCH -- Jade Huerta knew the road would be difficult, but she had a very specific goal in mind when she entered the gymnasium at Shore Regional High School on Wednesday afternoon.
"I knew they gave out (posters) with the brackets on them and I turned to my coach and I said, 'Listen, I'm leaving today with a paper to put on my wall'," Huerta said.
Huerta, a junior at Brick Township High School, was one of the stars of the 2022 girls Shore Conference Wrestling Tournament thanks to her stunning upset victory at 165 pounds. In the second period of the championship bout, Huerta transitioned from a cradle to a headlock and pinned returning state finalist Abigail Stanberry from Jackson Memorial at the 2:38 mark to become a Shore Conference champion.
"A Shore Conference queen, actually," Huerta playfully corrected.
"I knew she was No. 2 in the state and I was a little nervous going in, but once I got through that first period of the match I got to feel her out. In the second period, I just worked for it and held on for dear life."
Huerta, who was the No. 2 seed, won by fall in all three of her bouts. She began wrestling in seventh grade at Lake Riviera Middle School in Brick and five years later is one of the best in the Shore. She had some pre-tournament jitters but it certainly didn't show on the mat.
"I was actually very nervous for my first match because if I lost there it dictates everything," Huerta said. "But I think I'm a fairly confident person. I don't have a big ego and I have a lot of respect for (Stanberry) but I did just pin No. 2 in the state."
Huerta was one of two wrestlers to upend state-ranked opponents on Wednesday. Southern Regional sophomore Ella Yanuzzelli claimed the 152-pound SCT title with a grueling 4-3 victory over Jackson Memorial's Jordyn Katz, the No. 3-ranked wrestler in the state by NJ.com who was third in the state tournament at 151 pounds last season.
Yanuzzelli took a 3-2 lead in the second period with a takedown on the edge of the mat. A locking hands call against her late in the period tied the bout 3-3, but she was able to escape in the third period for a 4-3 advantage and hold off a late charge by Katz to claim a Shore Conference title.
"It was my first time dropping down that low in wrestling," said Yanuzzelli, who was a state qualifier last season as a freshman at 180. "Last year I weighed in at 160 but was wrestling up at 180, and it's a different feel."
It was an old-fashioned Southern vs. Jackson slugfest for a championship with both girls leaving it all on the mat in a bout that was dramatic until the final second. The locking hands call could have changed the complexion of the bout, but Yanuzzelli was able to shake it off and grind out the victory in the final two minutes.
"I get called for stuff, other people get called for stuff; you just have to know when to keep going," Yanuzzelli said. "I don't really look at the score. Obviously at the end you want to know where you're at but I just keep wrestling."
Southern has three girls wrestlers in the program with Yanuzzelli, senior Gracie Cordasco, and junior Hannia Garcia. Cordasco finished second at 114 pounds on Wednesday. Southern's boys team, of course, is annually among the best in New Jersey and has a long and proud championship tradition. The three girls train in the same wrestling room as the boys and bring those same expectations with them every time they take the mat.
"I love the program," Yanuzzelli said. "It feels good to wrestle for the No. 1 public school program in the state. In girls wrestling Southern is not a big name, but everybody knows Southern wrestling. You don't want to be a kid from Southern who doesn't even go to states. You have to do well. It's an expectation."
Southern's wrestling room is known to be a taxing, grinding environment that has churns out top-notch teams and battle-tested individuals each winter. Inside those walls, it's not boys wrestling or girls wrestling. It's just wrestling.
"The coaches push us as hard as they can, as much as the guys and sometimes even harder," Yanuzzelli said.
While Huerta and Yanuzzelli pulled off upsets, there was no such drama at 138 pounds. Central Regional junior Jayla Hahn cruised to the 138-pound title with a quick pin in the semifinals and a win by injury default in the championship bout. Her legendary last name turns heads but so does her wrestling ability, and the returning state champion is quickly making a name for herself once again after a pair of early-season losses.
"The losses were definitely a wake-up call," said Hahn, whose uncle is New Jersey wrestling legend Damion Hahn. "I'm happy I got them in the beginning of the season because I feel like I needed it. I'm back and I'm here."
"I'm definitely trying to be a three-time state champion. It means a lot to me to win those big tournaments because I know what I can do. I can't wait for the region and state tournaments."
When fans of the sport hear the name 'Hahn", it conjures thoughts of greatness. Like her uncle 25 years ago, Jayla is adding to the family legacy at an impressive rate.
"Wrestling is definitely important to me and my family on both sides," Hahn said. "It's just all-around No. 1 for us. It's a confidence booster for me because I know I have a lot of support and that lifts me up."
Hahn's impact even goes beyond her own accomplishments. She got her cousin, Dinayah Vazquez, to give wrestling a try and all she did was pin her way to the 114-pound title and earn SCT Most Outstanding Wrestler honors.
"She definitely worked her butt off this season and here she is standing with me as a conference champ," Hahn said.
In the team race, Jackson Memorial dominated with 183 points to claim the SCT team championship. Lakewood finished second with 103 points.
The Jaguars had six individual champions out of 12 weight classes plus three runners-up and three third-place finishers. Sofia Stamogiorgos won the 100-pound title, Dominique Lopez won at 120 pounds, Chloe Lawler claimed the 126-pound championship, Kamila Bieszczad took home first at 132 pounds, Brianna Fairchild won the 185-pound crown, and Kiley Toti secured the top spot at 235 pounds.
"I have to say, it's because of my assistant coaches," said Jackson Memorial head coach Joe Lemke. "I'm busy running around the wrestling room the whole time and they are the ones working individually with everyone. They're the ones getting it done."
Along with Manalapan and soon after, Lakewood, Jackson Memorial was on the ground floor of girls wrestling in the Shore Conference. The boys team is one of the most successful in Shore Conference history and that standard has quickly taken shape among the girls.
"That was coach Dewey (Doug Withstandley) and coach (Chris) Rash," Lemke said. "They were the ones four years ago who said we're going to have girls wrestling."
Right away, the Jackson girls bought in and made it their own, and it's continued to grow ever since.
"Abby Stanberry said it four years ago, 'We are here to prove something, to prove to everyone we're supposed to be here'," Lemke said. "That was the first day of practice. It was like, 'Ok, let's go have some fun'."
Also winning SCT individual titles were Lakewood's Kianna Aleman at 145 and Middletown South's Caitlin O'Reilly at 107. O'Reilly was the No. 2 seed and won by fall in all three of her bouts, including a third-period pin of Brick's Chelsea Bautista in the final. Aleman worked a 6-1 decision over Freehold Township's Sophia Santorelli in the 145-pound final to lead the way for a Piners team that had seven top-three finishers.
Girls Shore Conference Tournament, at Shore Regional HS - TOURNAMENT PAGE
Team Champion: Jackson Memorial
Most Outstanding Wrestler: Dinayah Vazquez, Central Regional
100: 1-Sofia Stamogiorgos (Jackson Memorial) p. 2-Trinity Valentin-Walczak (Manalapan), 3:27
107: 2-Caitlin O'Reilly (Middletown South) p. 1-Chelsea Bautista (Brick), 4:45
114: 2-Dinayah Vazquez (Central) p. 1-Gracie Cordasco (Southern), 2:22
120: 2-Dominique Lopez (Jackson Memorial) md. 1-Jayah Tawfik (Brick), 11-3
126: 1-Chloe Lawler (Jackson Memorial) p. 2-Sydney Ward (Jackson Memorial), 2:34
132: 1-Kamila Bieszczad (Jackson Memorial) p. 3-Mya Rosario (Jackson Liberty), 2:57
138: 1-Jayla Hahn (Central) by injury default over Leslie Cuate (Lakewood), 0:12
145: 1-Kianna Aleman (Lakewood) d. 2-Sophia Santorelli (Freehold Township), 6-1
152: 2-Ella Yanuzzelli (Southern) d. 1-Jordyn Katz (Jackson Memorial), 4-3
165: 2-Jade Huerta (Brick) p. 1-Abigail Stanberry (Jackson Memorial), 2:38
185: 1-Brianna Fairchild (Jackson Memorial) p. 2-Naomi Santillan (Lakewood), 0:54
235: 1-Kiley Toti (Jackson Memorial) p. 2-Robyn Mitchell (Lakewood), 3:47
100: Ella Hansen (Middletown South) p. Cindy Coyoti (Lakewood), 1:04
107: Litzy Argueta (Lakewood) p. Casey Holmes (Jackson Memorial), 2:51
114: Alexandra Tchekounova (Colts Neck) p. Jesenia Camargo (Lakewood), 3:02
120: Julianna Pabon (Colts Neck) p. Aida Carpintero (Lakewood), 3:55
126: Serenity Sutton (Matawan) p. Rachel Violett (Howell), 2:07
132: Stephanie Fingerman (Ocean) p. Emily Toussaint (Howell), 1:22
138: Thea Rowland (Middletown South) by forfeit over Maria Delrocio-Palacio (Red Bank)
145: Ashley Andre (Manalapan) p. Gianna Carino (Manchester), 3:18
152: Lizbeth Garcia (Lakewood) p. Amaya Hernandez (Central), 2:55
165: Danielle Forlenza (Freehold Township) p. Nataly Torres-Miron (Jackson Memorial), 1:28
185: Nancy Velez (Lakewood) p. Duaa Mahmood (Jackson Memorial), 4:45
1-Sofia Stamogiorgos (Jackson Memorial) d. 4-Ella Hansen (Middletown South), 8-5
2-Trinity Valentin-Walczak (Manalapan) md. 3-Cindy Coyoti (Lakewood), 13-4
1-Chelsea Bautista (Brick) vs. 4-Sophie Ali (Red Bank), 0:48
2-Caitlin O'Reilly (Middletown South) p. 3-Litzy Argueta (Lakewood), 3:41
1-Gracie Cordasco (Southern) vs. 5-Sophie Sharp (Ocean), 0:24
2-Dinayah Vazquez (Central) p. 3-Jesenia Camargo (Lakewood), 1:27
1-Jeyah Tawfik (Brick) p. 4-Aida Carpintero (Lakewood), 6:05
2-Dominique Lopez (Jackson Memorial) p. 3-Julianna Pabon (Colts Neck), 3:13
1-Chloe Lawler (Jackson Memorial) p. 4-Serenity Sutton (Matawan), 0:27
2-Sydney Ward (Jackson Memorial) p. 6-Kiera Holder (Jackson Liberty), 1:36
1-Kamila Bieszczad (Jackson Memorial) p. 5-Emily Toussaint (Howell), 1:17
3-Mya Rosario (Jackson Liberty) d. 2-Miranda Zona (Jackson Memorial), 6-5
1-Jayla Hahn (Central) p. 5-Maria Delrocio-Palacio (Red Bank), 1:11
2-Thea Rowland (Middletown South) p. 3-Leslie Cuate (Lakewood), 3:56
1-Kianna Aleman (Lakewood) p. 5-Gianna Carino (Manchester), 3:34
2-Sophia Santorelli (Freehold Township) p. 6-Ashley Andre (Manalapan), 2:43
1-Jordyn Katz (Jackson Memorial) p. 5-Lizbeth Garcia (Lakewood), 1:11
2-Ella Yanuzzelli (Southern) p. 3-Amaya Hernandez (Central), 2:22
1-Abigail Stanberry (Jackson Memorial) vs. 4-Nataly Torres-Miron (Jackson Memorial), 0:29
2-Jade Huerta (Brick) p. 3-Daniela Palacios (Lakewood), 1:05
1-Briana Fairchild (Jackson Memorial) p. 5-Duaa Mahmood (Jackson Memorial), 0:13
2-Naomi Santillan (Lakewood) vs. 3-Nancy Velez (Lakewood), 3:27