You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Skyland Conference wrestlers to watch in 2021

NJ.com logo NJ.com 3/9/2021 Joe Zedalis, nj.com
a group of people riding on the back of a person: Wrestlers to watch in the Skyland Conference this season: Liam Akers of North Hunterdon (upper left); Norman Cella of Hunterdon Central (upper right); Belvidere's Hunter Lensi (lower left) and Blake Bahna of Watchung Hills © Joe Zedalis | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com/Joe Zedalis | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com/nj.com/TNS Wrestlers to watch in the Skyland Conference this season: Liam Akers of North Hunterdon (upper left); Norman Cella of Hunterdon Central (upper right); Belvidere's Hunter Lensi (lower left) and Blake Bahna of Watchung Hills

Blake Bahna, Watchung Hills, Sr.

Five wins away from 100 career wins, with a 95-24 record, Bahna will go down as one of the most decorated wrestlers in Watchung Hills history. A major player in the Watchung Hills rise, Bahna will be a state championship contender in 2021. Bahna was 31-10 as a 120-pound freshman and won a District 16 title. He was 24-8 as a sophomore wrestling at 132 pounds, placing second in the district and third in the region. Then, last season, he exploded onto the statewide scene with a terrific 40-6 campaign. He was first at the Walter Woods Tournament at Middletown South. He went 6-1 at the Sam Cali Invitational after losing to eventual state champion Brian Soldano of High Point in the quarterfinals. He pinned his way to a Somerset County championship. He won a second district title, his first regional title and took sixth in the state tournament at 160 pounds.

a group of people riding on the back of a person: Wrestlers to watch in the Skyland Conference this season: Liam Akers of North Hunterdon (upper left); Norman Cella of Hunterdon Central (upper right); Belvidere's Hunter Lensi (lower left) and Blake Bahna of Watchung Hills © Joe Zedalis | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com/Joe Zedalis | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com/nj.com/TNS Wrestlers to watch in the Skyland Conference this season: Liam Akers of North Hunterdon (upper left); Norman Cella of Hunterdon Central (upper right); Belvidere's Hunter Lensi (lower left) and Blake Bahna of Watchung Hills

Colton Washleski, Hunterdon Central, Sr.

Washleski finished 2020 with a 42-7 record, culminating his season with a sixth-place finish in Atlantic City at 145 pounds. He won his first three bouts in the state tournament before losing to Andrew Troczynski of Delbarton, 6-3. Washleski was a Hunterdon Central Christmas Tournament champ, scoring a 3-1 sudden victory decision over Cooper Pontelandolfo of Cherokee. Washleski lost to Rumson-Fair Haven’s Max Brignola in the District 18 final, 3-1 in sudden victory. He then avenged the loss a week later with a 3-2 win over Brignola. Washleski was also 35-7 as a sophomore and was a state tournament qualifier.

Liam Akers, North Hunterdon, Jr.

Akers was 6-9 as a freshman, but in 2019-2020 he rapidly rose to the top of the list of contenders at 285 pounds. Akers went 34-5 last winter and placed seventh in the NJSIAA Championships. He scored 20 falls for the Lions as a sophomore. More impressive, however, were the 11 other bouts Akers won by two points or less. He was second in District 20 and Region 5, losing to Keshon Davilia of New Brunswick in sudden victory and 7-4. Akers went 5-1 in Atlantic City, losing to Marcus Estevez of Franklin and Bardhyl Gashi of West Essex.

Norman Cella, Hunterdon Central, Sr.

Cella had an outstanding 42-7 record with an eighth-place finish at 160 pounds in the NJSIAA Championships last season. Cella lost his second bout in Atlantic City to Nate Camiscoli of Bergen Catholic, 5-4. Cella wound up losing to Camiscoli again in the seventh-place bout, 3-0. During the regular-season, Cella had solid wins over Jacob Wicks of Phillipsburg, James Holder of North Hunterdon and Blake Bahna of Watchung Hills. Cella defeated Rumson-Fair Haven’s Shay Addison, 7-2, in the District 18 final. However Addison turned the tables with a 3-1 win in the Region 5 final.

Hunter Lensi, Belvidere, 31-9, Sr.

Lensi showed significant improvement last season going from a 26-12, fifth-place finisher in the Region 3 tournament in 2019 to a 31-9 state tournament qualifier in 2020 at 106 pounds. Lensi was District 12 champion and then was second in Region 3 last year losing to Delbarton’s Tyler Vazquez in the final. Lensi went 1-2 in Atlantic City.

James Day, Phillipsburg, Jr.

Day (pictured above) went 32-10 at 113 pounds last season for the Stateliners and was a state tournament qualifier. Day showed improvement from his freshman season when he went 25-10 at 106 pounds. As a sophomore, Day was fourth at the Bethlehem Holiday Classic and third in the Hunterdon/Warren/Sussex Tournament. Day had quality victories over Pat Iacoves of Southern (15-5) and Clayton Utter of High Point (5-3). Last season Day was first in District 13 and third in Region 3.

Frank DiEsso, North Hunterdon, Sr.

DiEsso has been a reliable contributor to North Hunterdon’s return to state prominence with a 66-15 record over the past two seasons while wrestling at 113 and then 120. In 2019-2020, DiEsso was first in the Nottingham and John Goles tournaments and third in the H/W/S. He was second in District 20 and third in Region 5 — losing to Jack Maida of Shore in both tournaments. He went 0-2 in Atlantic City.

Conner Quinn, North Hunterdon, Sr.

Quinn will be another multi-year starter for North Hunterdon. He was a sophomore, 126-pounder and finished with a 20-13. Last season he wrestled at 132 and went 29-7. Quinn won championships at the Nottingham and John Goles tournaments. He was third in the H/W/S. He was first in District 20 and placed third in Region 5 after losing to Anthony White of South Plainfield in the semifinals. Quinn won his first bout in Atlantic City, 12-9, over Ryan Smith of Brick Memorial, but dropped his next two and was eliminated. Those state tournament losses came to Dylan Cedeno of Bergen Catholic and Joseph Fiordaliso of Monroe.

Tanner Peake, Hunterdon Central, Jr.

Peake enters the season with 70 career victories and two district championships. Last season, he went 37-10, wrestling at 138 pounds. Peake took a third in Region 5 and then went 3-2 in the state tournament. In Atlantic City, Peake had victories over Cody Walsh of Camden Catholic (4-3), Owen Disbrow of St. Thomas Aquinas (3-1) and Alex Poniros of Ocean Township (10-2). His state tournament losses were at the hands of Delbarton’s Anthony Clark (3-0) and Ryan Zimmerman of Long Branch (5-2). Peake could be in for a big season.

Jack Murray, Watchung Hills, Sr.

In his prior years as a varsity wrestler, Murray has gone from 3-3 to 19-5 to 24-10 and a state tournament qualifier last season at 152 pounds. Who knows what he could accomplish in 2021. Murray was second in District 15 and second in Region 4. He lost in both finals bouts to Alexander Martinez of Bound Brook. Murray went 1-2 in Atlantic City. He had a pin against Alan Devries of Pompton Lakes, however, losses to Shore’s Michael McGhee and Wall’s Nicholas Vargas ended his season.

Stephen Malia, Warren Hills, Jr.

Malia (pictured above) is another wrestler who made huge strides a season ago. Malia was 15-14 as a freshman 126 pounder for the Streaks. Last season, he improved to 33-7 as a 152 pounder. Malia was a District 12 champion and placed third in Region 3. Malia was also first in the Hopatcong Invitation and John Goles Tournament. He was second at H/W/S losing to Matthew Garcia of Pope John, 12-5.

Nate Zastowny, Phillipsburg, Jr.

In his first season as a varsity starter for the Stateliners, Zastowny went 27-6 and was a state tournament qualifier at 160 pounds. After taking seventh at the Bethlehem Holiday Classic, Zastowny won 11-straight bouts and placed first in the H/W/S Tournament. After a loss to Robert Woodcock of Southern, he won 13 of his next 14 bouts. He was first in District 13. In the Region 4 tournament, he was disqualified in the quarterfinals, but rallied to win three bouts and placed third. He went to Atlantic City where he went 1-1.

James Holder, North Hunterdon, Sr.

After going 1-2 as a freshman, Holder has won 49 bouts over the past two seasons for the Lions. He was 27-11 in 2019-2020. Last season, as the regular 170-pounder, Holder was District 20 champion and a Region 5 runner-up, losing to Marcus Petite of Piscataway in the title bout. After losing to George Rhodes of of Absegami in his first state tournament bout, Holder won three times in the wrestlebacks. His season was ended in the fourth round of the consolations where he was defeated by Petite, again.

Tyler McCatharn, Warren Hills, Jr.

A name to keep and eye on in a loaded 285-pound class, McCatharn was a 17-18 wrestler two seasons ago as a freshman for the Streaks. Last season, he improved to 36-4 and was a state tournament qualifier. In 2019-2020, McCatharn opened the season with wins in 12 of his first 13 bouts. The only loss came to North Hunterdon’s Liam Akers. McCatharn was first at the Hopatcong Invitational, third at the John Goles after losing to Akers in the quarters. He was first in District 12, first in Region 3 and won two bouts in the state tournament in Atlantic City.

Get our HS sports newsletter here

Our journalism needs your support. Please subscribe today to NJ.com.

Joe Zedalis covers high school wrestling for NJ.com. He may be reached at jzedalis@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @josephzedalis. Like NJ.com HS sports on Facebook.

AdChoices
AdChoices

More From NJ.com

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon