Kearny’s Cardenas becomes an All-American at NCAA Wrestling Championships

There’s little that Kearny native and Cornell University junior Jacob Cardenas hasn’t accomplished on the wrestling mat. After this past weekend, Cardenas can add another line to an already long list of accolades – NCAA All-American.

Cardenas took home eighth place at 197 pounds during the 2023 NCAA Wrestling Championships held in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

During the three day event, Cardenas, who entered as the 10th seed in the 32 man field, went 4-3 in his matches.

Cardenas’ tournament run began with a 3-1 win by decision over Princeton’s Luke Stout, but was sent to the consolation bracket after being defeated by Tanner Sloan of South Dakota State, by decision, 4-0, in the second round on Thursday.

Despite the setback, Cardenas responded in a big way on Friday, winning three consecutive matches, defeating Levi Hopkins of Campbell (Major Decision, 13-4), Oklahoma State’s Luke Surber (Decision, 12-5) and Zac Braunagel of Illinois (Decision, 6-4). The victory over Braunagel in the fourth consolation round ensured a spot on the podium for Cardenas and gave him All-American status.

Cardenas’s Friday ended with a decision loss (4-2) to Iowa’s Jacob Warner. Then in Saturday’s Seventh Place Match, Penn State’s Max Dean, earned a 4-2 decision over Cardenas.

With the eighth place finish, Cardenas became one of four Cornell wrestlers to earn All-American honors this weekend. As a team, Cornell earned 76.5 team points, to finish in third place, trailing only Penn State (137.5) and Iowa (82.5).

Cardenas was one of seven New Jersey wrestlers to earn All-American status. Incredibly, he was one of three from Bergen Catholic to reach that incredible status, joining Chris Foca of Cornell (third place, 174 pounds) and Shane Griffith (fifth place, 165 pounds) on the podium in their respective weight classes.

Cardenas closes the season with a stellar 20-6 record. He is now 43-14 over the past two seasons, qualifying for the NCAA Tournament both times.

Two weeks prior, Cardenas earned his first EIWA championship when he defeated Lehigh’s Michael Beard in the final, using a takedown in the final 20 seconds to earn a 10-9 victory over decision.

In October, Cardenas represented Team USA at the U23 World Championships in Spain, winning the silver medal at 92 kg freestyle.

Cardenas’ wrestling career started with the famed Kearny Recreation program, eventually winning a state title in the 14-and-under 152-pound weight class as an eighth grader. He then went on to Bergen Catholic where he was a two-time state champion at 195 pounds in 2018 and 2019.

Learn more about the writer ...

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.)