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Rutgers wrestling defection: Paetzell heads to Lehigh

The 125 pound true freshman did well, but is looking for something else

Roy DeBoer with permission

He came in as a notable freshman. He was behind a senior.

And he supplanted that senior to take the starting spot at 125 pounds.

And now he’s transferring out.

Brandon Paetzell, who electrified the home crowd with a stunning last second win against Illinois, is leaving the banks and heading across the river to Lehigh. He told NJ Advance Media, "I just felt that I needed a change and it was best for me athletically and academically to move on," Paetzell said Wednesday night, declining to address any specific reasons for change. "I'm very thankful for the opportunity the coaches gave me and for being a part of Rutgers wrestling."

Fairly early in the season, Paetzell passed Sean McCabe to take over the lowest weight class. And he performed fairly well, going 14-10 overall, 6-5 in dual meets including 5-4 in the Big Ten. He went 0-2 in the Big Ten Championships.

Kids commit to schools for various reasons and they leave he same way. Sometimes it’s just a feeling, sometimes it’s because they want to be closer to home. Lehigh is about 30 miles closer to his home. And it’s a great wrestling school in the EIWA, maybe the second best wrestling conference....behind the Big Ten. As Brandon said, it was a feeling he needed a change. But there might be another reason not being discussed.

Zach Firestone spent three months at Bucknell, leaving in December 2016, after winning the NJSIAA title at 132 pounds. He won the title by beating Brandon Paetzell. Zach Firestone is transferring to Rutgers. And former Rutgers wrestler Anthony Perrotti thinks that is exactly why Paetzell is heading out.

Paetzell was a two-time NJSIAA runner-up at Phillipsburg High School, where he became a top 75 national recruit and No. 4 at 120 pounds. In 2016, though, he fell to Firestone in the state final. Maybe that’s the reason he’s transferring, maybe not. And the truth is, it doesn’t matter as long as Brandon Paetzell is comfortable. It’s his life.

Firestone, out of Clearview High School in south Jersey, has three years of eligibility left plus a redshirt year, so he could sit out this season. He was the high school teammate of current RU wrestlers John and Mike VanBrill.