Kearny’s Mullen does it again, wins another NJSIAA wrestling crown

For 30 years, the town of Kearny claimed just one NJSIAA state wrestling champion, namely David Cordoba of Kearny High, who won the overall 130-pound state title in 1999.

But now, it has become almost an annual occurrence.

In 2018, Jacob Cardenas of Kearny, who attended Bergen Catholic, won the first of his two state championships at 195 pounds.

Then in 2020, Jimmy Mullen of Kearny, who attends St. Joseph Regional of Montvale, kept the streak going by winning the 285-pound (heavyweight) state championship, the first freshman to ever capture the heavyweight championship.

On Saturday afternoon at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, Mullen kept the amazing stretch going by winning the heavyweight title again, dominating his way to the gold medal by winning two matches by superior decision and two others via pin, including a pin of Dom Brogna of Bergen Catholic in just 2:06. It was the fourth time this season that Mullen defeated rival Brogna en route to an impressive 35-2 record.

And get this? Mullen’s career mark now stands at 74-5 and none of those five losses have been to a wrestler in the state of New Jersey, meaning he’s undefeated against fellow wrestlers in the Garden State. Truly amazing.

Mullen has become so popular that he’s reached almost rock star status with his bushy, curly hair and bright smile. Kids all flock to him. Wrestling fans throughout the world want to know what Mullen is doing. He’s constantly asked for autographs and he’s the first New Jersey high school athlete to sign a Name Image and Likeness (NIL) contract to earn money while still in high school. Mullen’s contract is with

“It’s crazy having all these little kids coming up to me and wanting to take pictures with me,” Mullen said. “It’s great to see every little kid have a smile when they come up to me. I love it. I stop anywhere to take pictures and sign my name. It’s a lot of fun.”

Mullen said that he “kind of dominated” at the states this year, even though it was tough facing Brogna for a fourth time.

“It’s tough to wrestle anyone that many times,” Mullen said. “It’s tough to keep up.”

But Mullen wasted no time disposing of Brogna, recording a pin in his final high school match of the season. It also set the tone for a great afternoon of championship wrestling at Boardwalk Hall, as Mullen’s match was the first of the finals.

“I feel like I’ve been getting better in the (wrestling) room,” said Mullen, who trains almost daily at DC Training in either Paramus or Riverdale, the training facility owned by former state champion Diego Crespo of Paramus Catholic.

Mullen said that he saw Cordoba in Atlantic City, who admitted to Mullen “that you’re officially now better than me,” Mullen said of the Cordoba meeting. He also heard from his good friend Cardenas via text. Cardenas is currently a sophomore with the Cornell University wrestling team.

“Jacob said that I had to get one more to be better than him,” Mullen said. “I’m going to go for it next year.”

Mullen said that it was a little tougher this time than it was in 2020. Mullen did not participate in the state tournament last year during the pandemic-shortened season, electing to train for the USA Wrestling national junior team that he participated with in Budapest, winning a silver medal.

“This one I felt more pressure because I was the top seed and everyone was expecting me to win,” Mullen said. “People kept coming up to me and telling me that I should win. But I did win and the pressure was relieved.”

Mullen is taking college visits to determine where he might end up, going to Oklahoma State and North Carolina so far. He has not made a decision yet.

And as for taking some time off and enjoying his victory, that’s not Mullen’s style.

“I’m taking (Sunday) off,” Mullen said. “I’ll be back in the room on Monday. I’m there every day.”

Mullen said that he might participate in some upcoming national tournaments, but hasn’t decided on that just yet.

Mullen is also a standout football player as a defensive end for the Green Knights in the fall, but it’s safe to say his legacy will be as a wrestler.

One thing’s for sure: Cardenas and Cordoba might have to look up to Mullen next year.

“I’m going to go for another one,” Mullen said. “I love it.”

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Jim Hague | Observer Sports Writer

Sports Writer Jim Hague was with The Observer for 20+ years — and his name is one of the most recognizable in all of sports journalism. The St. Peter’s Prep and Marquette alum kicked off his journalism career post Marquette at the Daily Record, where he remained until 1985. Following shorts stints at two other newspapers, in September 1986, he joined the now-closed Hudson Dispatch, where he remained until 1991, when its doors were finally shut.

It was during his tenure at The Dispatch that Hague’s name and reputation as one of country’s hardest-working sports reporters grew. He won several New Jersey Press Association and North Jersey Press Club Awards in that timeframe.

In 1991, he became a columnist for The Hudson Reporter chain of newspapers — and he remains with them to this day.

In addition to his work at The Observer and The Hudson Reporter, Hague is also an Associated Press stringer, where he covers Seton Hall University men’s basketball, New York Red Bulls soccer and occasionally, New Jersey Devils hockey.

He’s also doing work at The Morristown Daily Record, the very newspaper where his journalism career began.

During his career, he also worked for Dorf Feature Services, which provided material for the Star-Ledger. While there, he covered the New York Knicks and the New Jersey Nets.

Hague is also known for his announcing work — and he’s done PA work for Rutgers Newark and NJIT.

Hague is the author of the book “Braddock: The Rise of the Cinderella Man.”