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Being named All-American is something every aspiring wrestler growing up would love. But with the circumstances of the 2020 season and the cancellation of the tournament due to COVID-19, Paetzell is left a little wanting after his junior season was cut short. He is thankful, but Brandon Paetzell wishes he could have seen his best season through.
“It’s a little bit bittersweet. Obviously, it’s not the way that I envisioned it, I’ve kind of had a vision of how I was going to do it; win the quarterfinals or winning in the blood round. I don’t think I think can quite replicate that. But it’s still pretty cool to have that status for sure.”
Paetzell chuckles at the absurdity of the entire situation. “It’s just crazy,” says Paetzell. “It’s just something that you’d never expect, you know? They say anything can happen and don’t take opportunities for granted. But you never think that a global pandemic would be the thing to take away your opportunity.”
Brandon Paetzell Early On
When Paetzell was a kid, he was full of energy according to family. He says while he was put in wrestling early on, it didn’t stick right away. But, when it was all said and done, Brandon Paetzell found his way to wrestling anyway.
“I was just a ball of energy as a little kid. I was like eight or nine years old and my two cousins wrestled in New Jersey. I was just with them for Christmas or some holiday and we were just messing around and they tried to catch me. They were like, ‘Man, this little kid’s scrappy. You should sign him up.’ So we tried it and, funny story, I showed up to my first practice cried and I left. And then the next year I was I was ready to go for an improv that never looked back.” He continues, “I was in second grade when I first tried. And then third grade was my first year that actually stuck with it. I was eight or nine.”
Outside of wrestling, Paetzell is a pretty laid back person. Like many college students, he just enjoys life. “I love eating, that shouldn’t be a surprise. I’m a big, big foodie. Obviously, I like working out. I’m pretty laid back. I like to take my dog for walks, hang out my family play video games and stuff like that.”
Transferring from Rutgers to Lehigh
After his freshman year, Brandon Paetzell decided to make a change and transfer from Rutgers back closer to home at Lehigh. Being at Rutgers, while a great program, wasn’t the right move for him at that time. Since transferring to Lehigh, it’s been all improvement for the 125er.
“I was kind of behind the eight ball physically and mentally. It was tough for me being away from my family and that first year away from home was kind of tough for me. Then it was also my first year cutting weight. I think that took a lot of a lot of toll on me. I wanted a redshirt year, which I didn’t get my freshman year. So, I think there’s a lot of factors, but I’m still grateful for the opportunity that I had at Rutgers. I learned a lot from it for sure. But, I knew that when I wanted to transfer, I knew that Lehigh was pretty much the place for me. It’s about 35 minutes from where I live. I’m familiar with the coaching staff. Just being so close to them, and I just knew the culture of the people and that they were on the program and I just knew that it was a good place to be.”
The jump from his sophomore year to his junior year has been astounding for Paetzell. He went 15-13 in 2019 then jumped to 21-3 this year. Paetzell made some changes from last season that have really paid some fantastic dividends.
“It was a combination of a couple of things. The first obvious one being the the weight change, I went down from 133 to 125, and I did it the right way. I changed my mindset with that. Like I said, my freshman year, I did it. I wasn’t really cutting a whole lot of weight, but I didn’t know how to do it and it just took a toll on me mentally. Whereas this time, I did it the right way, I have a nutritionist to help me and, I changed my mental approach and thought positively about it. I think that was a big thing. I really felt strong for the weight and I felt good all year round. And then, I’m a little bit of a late bloomer. It took me a little extra time to kind of get to where I needed to be. I just really wanted it and I’m super passionate about the sport of wrestling. I’m always trying to learn. It all came together last year.”
When asked if that was the key to his success, Paetzell said the hard work was just more properly applied. “Absolutely, Brandon Paetzell said. “Especially with the diet, but I was always a hard worker. So that really didn’t change that much. Right now, I’m just putting all the dedication and things together making it all work in one one fluid motion.”
COVID-19 and the Tournament
As previously mentioned, COVID-19 brought a halt to the entire wrestling season, cancelling the wrestling tournament to determine the real champions as well as the career of many college athletes who were in their final year of eligibility. But for Brandon Paetzell, it was disappointing that he didn’t get to see where he ended up in the tournament after such a stellar season.
“I really thought that this was my year. I don’t know if I was going to win the whole thing but I knew for sure that I was going to be on the podium. I truly believed that and my coaches believed it. We were talking about that all year. It was really tough, especially this year, when I felt like it was my time. Then it got taken away from me. But you know, it is what it is.”
Going into his senior year, Paetzell looks to continue where he left off and improve going into his final year as a collegiate wrestler. He wants to learn from what he’s built on and continue to become the best athlete he can be.
“I don’t really think a whole lot has to change, maybe just doing a little bit better of a job with my diet in the offseason and not getting too big like last year. I was pretty big, and then I had to make a big cut down. So I’m just trying to stay small and then trust what got me there. Once I can get back on the mats I want to get a lot of mat time. One thing would be focusing on my mat wrestling. I’m really good on my feet and that’s my best position but I think that’s gonna be the difference maker especially for beating those top guys like Spencer Lee and Pat Glory. Those guys are hammers on top. So to be able to not only not get turned, but just get out as well.”
As for the names like Lee and Glory, Paetzell had the chance to wrestle Pat Glory. The match did not go Paetzell’s way, with him losing 5-3. It was a very tough match and Paetzell feels he learned a great deal competing at the highest level.
“I think just finishing clean, but that’s much easier said than done on him. His whole game is predicated upon his scrambling ability. I had to feel it once and I think I did a good job in that match of just neutralizing it and not giving up scores when I got to his legs. But, I need to finish those attacks for sure. Next time.”
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