Junior Brandon Paetzell was only 9 years old when he started wrestling. This passion, first noticed by his cousins, pushes him to excel on the mat.
“I was a super-energized little kid, just a ball of energy,” Paetzell said. “I was scrappy and very stubborn. My cousins were playing around with me one day, trying to hold me down. They said ‘You gotta sign this kid up. He’s a fighter.’”
Paetzell recalls attending multiple NCAA wrestling tournaments at a young age with his father.
He said he had the most fun attending those matches. Now, he gets to compete in that very tournament.
Paetzell, ranked fifth in the NCAA for the 125-pound weight class, has been one of the top performers for the Mountain Hawks this season with an individual record of 14-2.
He said his passion drives him to make wrestling his future.
“I want to learn as much as I can and master the sport,” Paetzell said.
Sophomore Luke Resnick, a fellow 125-pound wrestler, said Paetzell’s attitude and commitment to the sport has a positive impact on the team.
Resnick said Paetzell is always trying to improve, which reflects his love for the sport.
“Immediately, when you meet him, you know that he’s really into wrestling, and that passion that he brings makes everyone work harder,” Resnick said.
One person who had a huge influence on Paetzell’s wrestling career was his elementary school coach, Mike Bateman. Bateman influenced Paetzell’s love for the sport and has become a mentor and father figure to him, Paetzell said.
Paetzell said he and Bateman still remain in contact to this day.
Though wrestling is both an individual and a team sport, Paetzell said he enjoys the individual aspect of the sport because his mindset is reflected onto the mat. He said he can clearly see how much work he has put into the sport and what he needs to improve upon.
Paetzell said there are many mental challenges that accompany wrestling, which can cause difficult dilemmas.
“Even on a daily basis, I am always battling myself in so many ways,” Paetzell said. “I have to ask myself things like, ‘Should I eat this brownie?’ Some days, I feel really tired or don’t feel good, and I have to go to practice.”
Last year, Paetzell wrestled at 133 pounds but cut down to 125 this year. Resnick said cutting weight is one of the hardest aspects of wrestling, and Paetzell has managed to do this well.
Sophomore wrestler Satoshi Abe, who wrestles in the 133-pound weight class, said Paetzell is a dedicated wrestler.
“He’s able to work towards his goals and have them be the most important thing in his life,” Abe said.
With the wrestling season nearing its end and the EIWA Championships and NCAA tournament looming overhead, Paeztell is looking forward to a successful postseason. He said he wants to be an EIWA champion, the 125-pound national champion and an All-American.
Paetzell and the rest of the Mountain Hawks face the Arizona State Sun Devils in their last regular season match at home on Feb. 21. The EIWA championships will also be hosted by Lehigh on March 6 and 7, and the NCAA tournament will be held in Minneapolis, Minnesota, from March 19-21.