EDISON – One star only wrestled after she got cut from the cheerleading team. Another is so good, she starts for a strong boys team. While a rookie has steadily improved this season.
Everyone in Sunday’s Greater Middlesex Conference Girls Wrestling Tournament had a backstory and their talents were on display in the 10 weight classes held at St. Thomas Aquinas.
Perth Amboy’s Ahsia Torres (107) was selected the Most Outstanding Wrestler for the lower weights after scoring two pins in a combined 59 seconds for her second GMCT title.
Old Bridge’s Gabby Miller (138) earned the Most Outstanding Wrestler for the upper weights with a pair of first-period pins for her second GMCT gold medal.
Also winning titles were St. Thomas Aquinas’ Julianna Van Ness (100), Melissa Martinez (120), Isabella Garcia (126) and Apryl Coffman (165). The other winners were North Brunswick’s Dayana Hoyos (114), East Brunswick’s Frankie Distel (132), J.P. Stevens’ Emely Rodriguez (145) and Metuchen’s Alex Osborn-Jones (152). New Brunswick state champion Kerly Borbor (185) didn’t have any opponents in her division.
Additionally, Spotswood’s Melissa Wehrle had the most pins in the least total time with three falls in a combined 3:35 en route to a third-place finish at 138.
The second year of the tournament had less wrestlers than the inaugural one in January 2020, likely due to numbers down during the COVID pandemic.
No matter, it got loud at times Sunday with wrestlers itching to compete after last season’s tournament was canceled. Here is a look at the non-St. Thomas Aquinas champions. (Click here for an article about St. Thomas Aquinas.)
Perth Amboy’s Ahsia Torres
Those conditioning drills in practice are certainly not fun, but …
“I wanted to do more,” Torres said with a laugh. “I was telling my coach to do more and he’s just like you have to calm down. There’s new people (on the team).”
Yes, once practice started, Torres couldn’t wait to get going and not everyone can keep up with her. For one, Torres missed last year after Perth Amboy’s school administration canceled the wrestling season for COVID safety precautions.
Now, she’s savoring any opportunity to put on the head gear.
“It feels great just to be back, honestly,” said Torres, who started wrestling her freshman season along with some friends to try something new. “I’m so happy I finally had a season this year. I stayed motivated because I wanted to do really good this year, my last season.”
In 2020 as a sophomore, Torres also won the 107-pound GMCT title and placed fifth in the state. She soon scored two head-turning wins across the state in tournament finals. At the Chick Wrestler Classic in Feb. 2021, she pinned two-time state champion Sydney Petzinger of Parsippany. In December’s Queen of the East, Torres pinned Elizabeth state champion Isabella Santos.
Sunday, she looked in top form, snapping down her finals opponent and locking in a cradle for the fall in 26 seconds.
“I love the challenge,” she said. “I love how you can’t underestimate anyone, no matter how they look because anybody can be you in your weight class.”
North Brunswick’s Dayana Hoyos
As a sophomore, Dayana Hoyos wanted to try a new activity, so she went out for cheerleading.
Strike one. Now, she couldn’t be too mad on not making the team.
“It’s because I wasn’t really good at cheering,” she can now admit. “It was my first time trying it. I just wanted to try something new so I went for cheer and I didn’t make the cut.”
One of her wrestling friends suggested that she come out for the team.
“He was like, ‘c’mon just try it’ and I tried it and I fell in love with the sport,” Hoyos said. “It was so much fun and I grew a bond with my team. If I could go back, I’d go back and start earlier because it’s super fun. I love it.”
Two years ago in her rookie season, she placed second in the GMCT at 114. Sunday, she captured the gold medal with a methodical 7-1 win.
So, was it a good thing she didn’t make the cheerleading squad?
“Yeah,” said Hoyos, with the medal around her neck. “Things happen for a reason, so I’m kind of glad I didn’t.”
East Brunswick’s Frankie Distel
Frankie Distel had a familiar opponent at 132, which featured three wrestlers in a round-robin format – East Brunswick teammate Sofia Sepulveda Pizarro.
Distel claimed the weight class with a 4-2 win over South Plainfield’s Eva Altamirano and a pin over Pizarro. Altamirano also defeated Pizarro by fall.
Distel, though, praised her practice partner for her development since last season – which is a compliment for any wrestler.
“She’s still my teammate, but I’m not going to go easy on her just because of that,” Distel said. “Like I want it to be a learning experience for us both. She got so much tougher this year, too. It was a lot harder to pin her this year.”
Distel knows about great training partners. As a sophomore, she began wrestling at New Providence High School, where she practiced with 2020 state champion Noran Elmahroukey (121). Elmahroukey had competed in international judo competitions and her judo moves translated to spectacular pins.
“I got thrown around all the time,” Distel said. “I hate headlocks.”
But she stuck with it, steadily improved and is now a GMCT champion.
Old Bridge’s Gabby Miller
Sunday, Old Bridge’s Gabby Miller made her wrestling debut this season. Well, actually, just against girls. She’s been in the Old Bridge’s boys lineup at 138 and 144 for recent key matches against Monroe, Howell and Perth Amboy. That's impressive, especially considering that Old Bridge is a big school and one of the best teams in Middlesex County.
“I’ve been keeping in shape with them, but it’s nice to actually win a girls tournament,” Miller said. “Like I normally don’t wrestle girls, so it’s nice when I do wrestle girls and I go out there and work my moves and I get the win.”
Miller is the GMC’s flagship girls wrestler, having won state titles in 2021 and 2019.
Sunday, she advanced with a 56-second semifinal pin and scored a fall in 1:14 in the final. In 2020, she captured the GMCT gold medal at 135.
Miller noted that wrestling boys helps her think more about her technique.
“I like it,” she said. “It’s better competition for me. New Jersey’s a wrestling state, so to be wrestling New Jersey boys is amazing. I feel like not a lot of girls get that opportunity and I’m thankful that I have that opportunity.”
While they’re stronger, a slick move is a slick move.
“It’s a little hard, they have a lot more muscle," Miller said. "So, muscles get tired, but technique doesn’t — I always say that.”
J.P Stevens’ Emely Rodriguez
Sometimes a wrestler is just so locked in, she has tunnel vision and everything else just doesn't register.
Sunday, that was the case for J.P. Stevens’ junior Emely Rodriguez. She earned the gold medal at 145 after a pin in her third round-robin match. She was later asked if it occurred in the first period.
“I think so,” Rodriguez answered. “I wasn’t paying attention. When you’re like in there and you’re on the mat, you can’t be focusing on the time or the opponent. You have to focus on wrestling. I guess that’s what I did.”
The business-like Rodriguez said “everything’s a blur on the outside.”
For the record, Rodriguez won by a fall in 1:28 in her second match and a pin in 4:26 in her first bout to go 2-0 and claim the gold medal.
Metuchen’s Alex Osborn-Jones
As someone who’s 6-foot, people always told Metuchen junior Alex Osborn-Jones that she should play basketball. However, for whatever reason, there wasn’t a spark on the hardwood.
Then Metuchen wrestler Keira Walker asked her if she wanted to join the wrestling team.
Osborn-Jones’ answer – “you know what, sure.”
“And from there, it’s just been such a great experience,” she said. “I’ve loved every minute of it and I’m so appreciative that she came to me. … There’s something about wrestling that I just really love. The power that I feel, I love every moment of it really.”
The first-year wrestler has quickly learned the nuances and was surprised of wrestling’s complexities.
“I like that there’s a lot of thinking involved,” Osborn-Jones said. “A lot more than I thought there was. When I was looking from an outsider perspective, I thought that it was more of a whoever’s strongest is going to win sport, but there’s so much thinking involved and technique that you have to learn and I really appreciate that. And watching wrestlers who have been doing it for so long, who know all of those techniques and are just so good at maneuvering around – I really idolize them.”
Now, she’s getting her own fans. Osborn-Jones defeated North Brunswick’s Natalie Fernandez Taveras 2-1 in the final. Last Thursday, Taveras pinned Osborn-Jones in 5:38.
Osborn-Jones nearly turned her opponent in the third period, but Taveras bravely held on. Still, it was a big step in her development.
“It was sort of an important moment because it was like I was redeeming myself,” Osborn-Jones said. “I recognized that I’m growing each week and I’m getting stronger each week and learning these techniques. I’m proud of myself, to be sure.”
1st Place - Julianna Van Ness of Saint Thomas Aquinas
2nd Place - Rose Pavley of South Brunswick
3rd Place - Casey Wong of John P. Stevens
Rose Pavley (South Brunswick) 1-1, Jr. over Casey Wong (John P. Stevens) 0-2, Fr. (Dec 8-1)
Julianna Van Ness (Saint Thomas Aquinas) 2-0, Jr. over Casey Wong (John P. Stevens) 0-2, Fr. (Fall 1:02)
Julianna Van Ness (Saint Thomas Aquinas) 2-0, Jr. over Rose Pavley (South Brunswick) 1-1, Jr. (Dec 8-1)
1st Place - Ahsia Torres of Perth Amboy
2nd Place - Keira Walker of Metuchen
3rd Place - Lindsay Stoll of Highland Park
4th Place - Nallelin Diaz of Perth Amboy
Ahsia Torres (Perth Amboy) 9-0, Sr. over Lindsay Stoll (Highland Park ) 3-2, So. (Fall 0:33)
Keira Walker (Metuchen) 5-4, Sr. over Nallelin Diaz (Perth Amboy) 0-3, Jr. (Fall 0:51)
Ahsia Torres (Perth Amboy) 9-0, Sr. over Nallelin Diaz (Perth Amboy) 0-3, Jr. (For.)
Keira Walker (Metuchen) 5-4, Sr. over Lindsay Stoll (Highland Park ) 3-2, So. (Dec 10-3)
Ahsia Torres (Perth Amboy) 9-0, Sr. over Keira Walker (Metuchen) 5-4, Sr. (Fall 0:26)
Lindsay Stoll (Highland Park ) 3-2, So. over Nallelin Diaz (Perth Amboy) 0-3, Jr. (Fall 1:02)
1st Place - Dayana Hoyos of North Brunswick
2nd Place - Emma Sagi of Old Bridge
3rd Place - Libni Gijon of New Brunswick
4th Place - Ruby Hyman Cruz of John P. Stevens
1st Place Match
Dayana Hoyos (North Brunswick) 7-0, Sr. over Emma Sagi (Old Bridge) 5-2, So. (Dec 7-0)
3rd Place Match
Libni Gijon (New Brunswick) 6-3, Fr. over Ruby Hyman Cruz (John P. Stevens) 2-2, So. (Fall 4:27)
1st Place - Melissa Martinez of Saint Thomas Aquinas
2nd Place - Caelum Ritzdorf of Metuchen
3rd Place - Isabel Alphonse of East Brunswick
4th Place - Rachel Iglesia of Perth Amboy
Melissa Martinez (Saint Thomas Aquinas) 3-0, Sr. over Isabel Alphonse (East Brunswick) 1-2, So. (Fall 1:49)
Caelum Ritzdorf (Metuchen) 4-6, Fr. over Rachel Iglesia (Perth Amboy) 2-8, Jr. (MD 14-1)
Melissa Martinez (Saint Thomas Aquinas) 3-0, Sr. over Caelum Ritzdorf (Metuchen) 4-6, Fr. (Fall 1:52)
Isabel Alphonse (East Brunswick) 1-2, So. over Rachel Iglesia (Perth Amboy) 2-8, Jr. (Fall 1:59)
Melissa Martinez (Saint Thomas Aquinas) 3-0, Sr. over Rachel Iglesia (Perth Amboy) 2-8, Jr. (Fall 0:46)
Caelum Ritzdorf (Metuchen) 4-6, Fr. over Isabel Alphonse (East Brunswick) 1-2, So. (Fall 0:13)
1st Place - Isabella Garcia of Saint Thomas Aquinas
2nd Place - Joceline Menes of North Brunswick
Isabella Garcia (Saint Thomas Aquinas) 2-0, Sr. over Joceline Menes (North Brunswick) 2-4, Sr. (Fall 1:40)
Isabella Garcia (Saint Thomas Aquinas) 2-0, Sr. over Joceline Menes (North Brunswick) 2-4, Sr. (Fall 1:08)
1st Place - Frankie Distel of East Brunswick
2nd Place - Eva Altamirano of South Plainfield
3rd Place - Sofia Sepulveda Pizarro of East Brunswick
Frankie Distel (East Brunswick) 2-0, Sr. over Eva Altamirano (South Plainfield ) 3-2, Fr. (Dec 4-2)
Eva Altamirano (South Plainfield ) 3-2, Fr. over Sofia Sepulveda Pizarro (East Brunswick) 0-2, Sr. (Fall 2:51)
Frankie Distel (East Brunswick) 2-0, Sr. over Sofia Sepulveda Pizarro (East Brunswick) 0-2, Sr. (Fall 5:35)
1st Place - Gabby Miller of Old Bridge
2nd Place - Kristina Jaimes of North Brunswick
3rd Place - Melissa Wehrle of Spotswood
4th Place - Narlie Diaz of Perth Amboy
1st Place Match
Gabby Miller (Old Bridge) 2-0, Sr. over Kristina Jaimes (North Brunswick) 5-2, Sr. (Fall 1:14)
3rd Place Match
Melissa Wehrle (Spotswood) 3-1, Jr. over Narlie Diaz (Perth Amboy) 2-2, Sr. (Fall 1:20)
1st Place - Emely Rodriguez of John P. Stevens
2nd Place - Makayla Decker of Saint Thomas Aquinas
3rd Place - Aliya Graca of East Brunswick
Emely Rodriguez (John P. Stevens) 2-0, Jr. over Aliya Graca (East Brunswick) 0-2, Fr. (Fall 4:36)
Makayla Decker (Saint Thomas Aquinas) 1-1, Fr. over Aliya Graca (East Brunswick) 0-2, Fr. (Fall 0:19)
Emely Rodriguez (John P. Stevens) 2-0, Jr. over Makayla Decker (Saint Thomas Aquinas) 1-1, Fr. (Fall 1:28)
1st Place - Alex Osborn-Jones of Metuchen
2nd Place - Natalie Fernandez Taveras of North Brunswick
3rd Place - Abigail Lydon of East Brunswick
Alex Osborn-Jones (Metuchen) 4-2, Jr. over Abigail Lydon (East Brunswick) 0-2, So. (Fall 3:57)
Natalie Fernandez Taveras (North Brunswick) 5-1, Sr. over Abigail Lydon (East Brunswick) 0-2, So. (Fall 4:26)
Alex Osborn-Jones (Metuchen) 4-2, Jr. over Natalie Fernandez Taveras (North Brunswick) 5-1, Sr. (Dec 2-1)
1st Place - Apryl Coffman of Saint Thomas Aquinas
2nd Place - Yuma Vidal of Perth Amboy
Yuma Vidal (Perth Amboy) 5-3, Sr. over Apryl Coffman (Saint Thomas Aquinas) 2-1, Jr. (Dec 5-2)
Apryl Coffman (Saint Thomas Aquinas) 2-1, Jr. over Yuma Vidal (Perth Amboy) 5-3, Sr. (OT 3-1)
Apryl Coffman (Saint Thomas Aquinas) 2-1, Jr. over Yuma Vidal (Perth Amboy) 5-3, Sr. (Dec 3-2)
Andy Mendlowitz is a sports reporter for MyCentralJersey.com. To get unlimited access to local news throughout Central Jersey, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.
This article originally appeared on MyCentralJersey.com: GMCT Girls Wrestling: The six champs not from St. Thomas Aquinas