Monache standout to stay local, attend CSUB

One of the most stressful parts of senior year for any high school student is figuring out what college they’ll attend next year. But for Monache High School star wrestler Mark Cardwell, that decision’s already been made.

In late August, Cardwell announced that he had verbally committed to California State University, Bakersfield and will suit up for the Roadrunners on a full-ride scholarship. He’ll wrestle in the 174-pound weight class while pursuing a degree in kinesiology. CSU Bakersfield is an NCAA Division I school that wrestles in the Pac 12 Conference.

“I never thought I’d go to CSU-Bakersfield but the coach gave me an offer, said come out and check it out,” Cardwell said. “So I went out there and checked it out and I ended up really liking it. I like the coaches and I just like the feel in the wrestling room, like the intensity. I feel like they get something out of every practice. I feel like I could do big things there.”

As a Marauder, Cardwell’s already done big things, and is on track to become the first Monache wrestler to be a four-time state qualifier and East Yosemite League champion. 

Last season as a junior, Cardwell went 53-7 and finished fourth at the CIF State Championship meet — his first time placing. In his final season with the Marauders, the Recorder’s two-time Orange Belt Boys Wrestler of the Year said he hopes to go undefeated and finish high school with no regrets and a state championship.  

Surprisingly, with all of his success on the mat, Cardwell said he was unsure if he was going to have a college to compete at next season, and was “relieved” to commit to Bakersfield.

“It’s relieving because it’s one less thing I have to worry about,” Cardwell said. “I can focus more on school now. I don’t have to be thinking about, ‘Man, what if I don’t even get into a school?’ Or something like that, because I was thinking that. Now I’m already committed to a school ,so it’s like a weight taken off my shoulders.”

Monache head coach Arthur Demerath said he was proud of Cardwell for committing to a four-year school where he could continue to wrestle. 

“I’m very proud of the effort and the work he’s put in. It’s shown that because of all his discipline, work ethic and how much time he’s been in this room, it’s paid off,” Demerath said. “And that’s one of my goals is to always get kids to college. Especially a four-year college, one that’s going to give him a scholarship. If we can hopefully continue that process, we can get more and more kids in this room...anywhere, I don’t care. As long as it’s a four-year college I’d be happy to see them in there and wrestling.”

Former Marauder and 2014 CIF State Champion Matt Gamble redshirted for Bakersfield before transferring to San Francisco State University, and has told Cardwell and Demerath about what Cardwell should expect from CSUB head coach Manny Rivera and his coaching staff. 

“I think he’ll go right in, especially with Bakersfield. I think it’s a perfect scenario for him because they’re kind of like [us],” Demerath said on Cardwell’s transition to college. “Matt said they’re just hard work ethic type of coaches there. You know they grind, and that’s a perfect scenario for [Cardwell] because he’s that type of person. If he goes in there and gets beat, he’s going to come back the next day and try to figure out how to beat that guy. Every day he doesn’t back down. He just keeps coming at you and that’s what [has been] really fun to watch him grow over the years is he never had that ‘I quit’ attitude. He always had ‘I have to get better,’ and he’s always put the time in.”

When it comes to Cardwell, the discussion always eventually turns to the legacy he’ll leave behind when he graduates, and with a young, hungry group of Monache grapplers right on his heels, Demerath is certain that wrestlers will be after Cardwell’s significant achievements for some time.

“He definitely leaves marks of things that people definitely want to attain,” Demerath said. “First possible — barring no injury — first-ever four-time state qualifier. I think one of the first, one of the very few [four-time] EYL champs. 

But in the end, Cardwell has emerged as a leader for Monache, and that is one of the biggest contributions — as well as most important losses — the team will have to deal with this season.

“What we’re going to lose is leadership,” Demerath said. “I think we’re going to lose some of the grit in the room, but I think we got kids that are watching him, that will hopefully come up and learn from him especially. Because we have a young group behind him and he could tutor them this year and be a captain and a leader of the team and hopefully get them to continue that focus that we have.”

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