Kearny native Jimmy Mullen ends his HS career with a third state wrestling championship

The finale might have come with more drama than expected, but for the third time in his legendary high school career Kearny resident and St. Joseph Regional senior Jimmy Mullen is a state heavyweight champion.

Mullen defeated mat rival and longtime friend, Max Acciardi of Paramus Catholic, 5-3, in the 285-pound final on Saturday in Atlantic City. While most of Mullen’s matches are decided well before the final buzzer is sounded, this one proved different.

Mullen was down 3-2 after two periods, thanks to an earlier takedown by Acciardi. Choosing to start the third period on bottom, Mullen escaped to even the score at 3-3. Then, with just a couple of seconds left in the period, Mullen got the takedown he desperately wanted, bringing Acciardi down to the mat moments before the buzzer sounded to clinch the victory.

“I believed in myself,” Mullen told following the win. “I was down 3-2 and I got up. I didn’t want it to go to overtime, but if I had to, I had to. I knew how much time was left because the scoreboard was right behind (Max). If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t have known.”

Mullen, the top-seed and defending champion, barely broke a sweat in his first two matches in Atlantic City on Thursday, pinning Jackson Youtz of Mount Olive in 25 seconds in the preliminary round, then taking down Delbarton’s Connor Martin in 1:17.

Friday’s quarterfinals saw Mullen defeat Phillipsburg’s John Wargo by a 6-1 decision, a rare Mullen match that went the full six minutes. Then in the semifinals, Mullen defeated Daniel Elyash of Paramus by tech fall at the 3:17 mark.

Mullen, who will wrestle and play football at Virginia Tech next year, concludes his legendary high school career with a record of 111-7, including 42-1 this season. None of his seven losses came against NJSIAA competition and he is a three-time state champion.

As a sophomore, Mullen elected to attend the United World Wrestling Cadet Nationals instead of the NJSIAA State Championships. At the Cadet Nationals, Mullen qualified for Pan-American Games and the World Cadet Championships. Representing Team USA, Mullen has won two gold medals at the Pan-American Games and was a world silver medalist for freestyle wrestling at the World Cadet Championships.

While Mullen got the storybook ending he hoped for, for another Observer area star, it was an all too familiar feeling of heartbreak as Lyndhurst-North Arlington’s Damian Weaver fell one victory short of earning a medal for a top eight finish when he dropped a 5-1 decision to David Hussey of Middletown South in the “Blood Round” at 157 pounds.

Weaver, who went 2-2 in Atlantic City concluded his senior season with a 34-5 record. The two-time Bergen County champion won 108 matches for his career.

Lyndhurst-North Arlington’s Kieran McNeil (126 pounds), Kearny’s Joseph Rocco (138), Bloomfield heavyweight Gabriel McCulloch also competed in Atlantic City.

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Jason Bernstein | Observer Sports Writer

Jason Bernstein joined The Observer as its sports writer in March 2022, following the retirement of Jim Hague. He has a wealth of sports-writing experience, including for NJ Advance Media (, The Jersey Journal, The Star-Ledger.)