NJ wrestlers have 5 medals, texts by Gable Steveson, no regrets jumping states
It was the Tweet heard in New Jersey.
On Easter evening, sophomore Jimmy Mullen from St. Joseph (Montreal) announced on social media that he and PJ Casale of Delbarton would forgo the NJSIAA state wrestling tournament to compete in the national championships cadets in Wisconsin the same weekend.
Casale, a junior at the time, and Mullen were both reigning state champions. Mullen gave up a chance to become only the fifth four-time state champion in state history, while Casale could also have joined an exclusive roster as a three-time state champion.
Because the wrestling season was postponed due to COVID-19, the US trials and the NJ states were contested on the same weekend. There will be no conflict this season.
Both wrestlers have no regrets after a summer in which they won five combined international medals.
The two performed well enough in Wisconsin to qualify for the United States squad at the Pan Am Games in Oaxtepec, Mexico – left Argentina because the country was a COVID hotspot – and Mullen turned away. also traveled to Budapest, Hungary as the United States’ representative in Freestyle and Greco at the Cadet Worlds.
Mullen won a silver medal at the World Freestyle Championships in Budapest and lost the bronze medal match to Greco. Both wrestlers won gold in freestyle and greco in the Pan American Games – Mullen at 110kg, Casale at 92kg.
They’ve only had to wrestle a handful of times in Mexico due to small ranges in their weight classes, and Casale even added a Greco match with a weight at the junior level to round out his experience.
Mullen needed to win by criteria in his opener in freestyle at the world championships, but then dominated the next two games before reaching the final where he lost by technical fall.
“It was a fun summer, traveling the world, meeting new people,” said Mullen, who said he spent 14 days in Budapest and got to explore the city. “Just competing overseas has been an incredible experience. The World Championships have been one of the toughest tournaments I’ve been to. Every child was amazing. I would have liked the result of the final to be different, but I can’t complain. It’s amazing that I reached the final.
“The first round of the tournament was difficult. I was really hungry, but I didn’t eat. I didn’t want to throw up on the mat, and in the second half I started having cramps. After the game I had good nutrition and struggled much better in my second and third games. I was a bit overwhelmed in the final and didn’t fight like I should have, but it didn’t help (Iranian Masoumi Valadi) looked like he was 25.
Mullen, who is recruited by Minnesota as a wrestler, exchanged congratulatory texts this summer with Gable Steveson, the current Olympic gold medalist and NCAA heavyweight champion for the Gophers, who rallied for a late victory at the Olympic Games which just ended in Japan. .
“Gable Steveson is a dog,” Mullen said. “He beat a three-point world champion by three points with 10 seconds remaining. The American struggle killed him.
“When I went to Budapest he sent me a good luck text for the tournament which was really cool. I texted him to wish him good luck before his gold medal game. We’ve been texting, he’s still answering me. He’s a cool guy. He said he had seen some of my games and that I was a beast, which means something from someone like that.
None of the New Jersey stars were proficient in Greco, but that didn’t stop them from winning the gold double – along with the rest of the US contingent in Mexico.
“This was my third Greco tournament, the US trials were my second,” said Mullen, who noted that he and Casale were doing it. “We have just practiced our positioning. We haven’t done much.
Casale added, “I think Jimmy and I winged it a bit too hard, we didn’t practice it too much but it gave us a different exposure than what we usually get with folkstyle and freestyle.”
Casale said his performance at the national tournament and in Mexico caught the attention of several colleges, which is why he determined after returning home that he was disengaging from Lehigh. Arizona State. Michigan and Rutgers are now in the picture.
“Yes definitely the experience opened my eyes to a lot of things,” Casale said. “You can’t compete a lot outside of your own country. I’m glad we worked for this. The whole process was a different experience and it paid off.
Casale said he and Mullen watched the state tournament from Wisconsin and were cheering on their teammates from afar.
“We put it on the big TV, I watched two of my teammates win it,” said Casale of Daniel Jones and Andrew Troczynski. “I am proud of Delbarton. It was cool to see that raw emotion, and happy to see these guys feeling that. “
Even after all of his international successes, Mullen said he’s still not sure if he plans to wrestle in college as he is also an FBS football rookie.
In fact, the gold medalists didn’t take much time this summer after the wrestling was over. They have both embarked on training for the next football season.
“Dude, my body is… bad,” Mullen said.
But he and Casale said they made the right decision by skipping states to begin a memorable journey.
“If I could go back,” Mullen said. “I wouldn’t do anything different.”
Bill Evans can be reached at [email protected]. Thank you for relying on us to provide journalism you can trust. Please consider supporting NJ.com with a subscription.