Six Shore Conference girls win championships at inaugural NJSIAA Region Tournaments
Some of the girls competing at Red Bank Regional have been wrestling for long enough to have dreamed of this moment, while many others decided to give the sport a try just a few months ago. Regardless of their path, they all had an equal hand in a historic moment on Saturday night.
Six Shore Conference girls captured region championships while nine others placed in the top three during the inaugural NJSIAA North/South Region Girls Wrestling Tournaments. Manasquan’s Bella Serrano and America Garay, Raritan’s Mia Lazaurs and Christine Gavasheli, Pinelands’ Olivia Mena and Jackson Memorial’s Kayla Gregory came away with region titles to lead a Shore contingent of 15 girls who qualified for the NJSIAA Individual Championships on March 1-2 at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.
One of the most experienced wrestlers in the building was Serrano, a senior who has been a four-year starter at 106/113 pounds for Manasquan’s boys varsity team and has 33 competing almost exclusively against males. Saturday was her time to shine, and as the top seed at 111 pounds in the South Region she defeated Kingsway’s Mia Bruno, 9-3, to take home the region title.
At 118 pounds, Mena won by fall in all three of her bouts to take the South Region title. Mena was the top seed in the bracket and won by fall over Notre Dame’s Angelina Romero in the final.
One of the biggest upsets in the tournament came from Gregory in the South Region 127-pound final. Manalapan’s Angelina Vitola, who was an accomplished wrestler in Texas before moving back to New Jersey, was leading 11-3 with under a minute left in the third period when Gregory turned the tables and pinned her at the 5:28 mark. The two had wrestled when Manalapan and Jackson Memorial met in a season-opening dual meet with Vitola coming away with a 5-3 victory.
Another stunning result came in the semifinals of the South Region 136-pound bracket when Garay, a first-year wrestler, pinned Manalapan’s Jesse Johnson in just 22 seconds. Johnson is a fifth-year wrestler who was the No. 1 seed and over the summer was a Fargo Freestyle All-American. Garay completed her run to the region title by pinning Delran’s Emma Matera early in the second period in the championship bout.
At 185 pounds in the South Region, Lazaurs pinned her way to the title, including a fall in 4:56 against Jackson Memorial’s Jordyn Katz in the final. Lazaurs was the No. 2 seed while Katz was the No. 4 seed and pinned the top seed, Timber Creek’s Tiyanna Hooker, in the semifinals.
In the North Region 118-pound bracket, Gavasheli cruised to the championship with three falls, ultimately pinning Red Bank’s Sheridan Torres in just 59 seconds in the final.
In addition to the six champions and the aforementioned runners-up – Vitola, Katz and Sheridan – Jackson Memorial’s Madison Pesavage finished second at 161 in the South Region. Wrestling back to finish third and qualify for the state tournament out of the South Region were Asbury Park’s Quanizja Legagneur at 100 pounds, Manalapan’s Julia Manolas at 105, Johnson at 136 and Jackson Memorial’s Brandi Rado at 147. In the North Region, Raritan’s Casandra Auletta finished third at 118 pounds.
The historic first girls wrestling state championship tournament will be held alongside the boys tournament at Boardwalk Hall on Friday, March 1 and Saturday, March 2. The girls quarterfinals will be at 6 p.m. on March 1 with the semifinals to follow. On March 2 at 10 a.m. the consolations semifinals and third-place bouts will be contested with the state finals to follow. Wrestlebacks will be to sixth place.
Managing editor Bob Badders can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights.