Both former champions returned to the top of the podium in impressive fashion as they were among the headliners at the District 1 Tournament on Saturday at Warren Hills Regional High School.
Paetzell, a three-time champion and one of seven winners for Phillipsburg, returned to action at 132 pounds for the first time since breaking his left hand in a bout on Dec. 23. P'burg easily claimed its 43rd team championship, as Kyle Markus (113), Brian Meyer (145), DJ Wissing (152), Drew Horun (195), Robert Melise (220) and Kyle Nothnagel also won titles. Meyer and Melise were repeat champs.
"Feels really good to be back," said Paetzell, who improved to 97-12 overall and will undoubtedly be the No. 1 seed at 132 in the Region 1 Tournament that begins on Wednesday. "It's been too long."
Paetzell was in the midst of one of the greatest careers in Phillipsburg's proud history when a thumb injury ended his junior season just 12 bouts in. He already had won two district and two region title, while placing fifth in the state as a freshman and second as a sophomore. This season, another hand injury sidelined Paetzell in the second week of his senior campaign.
|Phillipsburg celebrates the program's 43rd district championship.|
"When you've been off the mat that long, you appreciate the time back," said Paetzell, a Rutgers recruit. "I was probably not on my A-game at the Beast of the East, and I'm probably still not on my A-game now. I'll enjoy this one for a little bit and get back to work."
If Paetzell wasn't on top of his game, it sure didn't look that way. In the finals, Paetzell worked Hackettstown sophomore Alex Cardia, a third-place finisher in 2015, for an 18-3 technical fall victory. Paetzell grimaced at one point midway through the second period and was seen shaking his left hand several times until the final buzzer. Turns out, he had some extra motivation to score the technical fall.
"[Carida] grabbed my hand and squeezed it, and I let my emotions get the best of me," said Paetzell, who racked up six takedowns, including two in the third period before turning Carida for two back points with a turk in the closing seconds. "I knew to expect that, but I wasn't prepared for the pain. It's nothing serious."
As for going into Region 1 as the heavy favorite, Paetzell said he's used to those expectations.
"I put more pressure on myself than any state rankings," he said. "I won't be satisfied with anything less than a gold medal [at states]. It's been my dream since I was 8 years old."
Paetzell was certainly pleased with a third district title, being he is a student of Phillipsburg wrestling history.
"It's cool to be a part of," he said. "I love hearing that I'm only the 36th to this or whatever. I'm very grateful to be a part of such great tradition."
Renne is outstanding
Being a perceived underdog as a No. 1 seed is rare, but Renne took it all in stride gave Warren Hills junior Matt Valli his first loss -- 9-6 in the 126-pound final. For his efforts, Renne was received the Outstanding Wrestler Award as voted on by the coaches.
"I knew he was undefeated and either way we would be seeded 1-2," said Renne, a Region 1 champion last season. "I knew we'd probably be seeing each other in the finals and that's how it played out. No matter what, I had to wrestle my best."
Renne (29-5), a District 1 runner-up last season and a champion in 2014, led, 2-1, after one period. Valli (32-1), also a champ in '14, got an escape and takedown to take a 4-2 lead in the second, but Renne spun behind him for a tying reversal right before the buzzer. Renne converted two more takedowns in the third period and was able to fend off several attempts by Valli in the final minute.
"He's a good wrestler and I just tried to stay in the best position that I could," Renne said.
Renne (121-33), who is one of just 10 wrestlers at Hackettstown with 100 or more career wins, also is closing in on a school record. He's just one victory shy of matching all-time leader Cory Vernon (122-19 from 2003-07).
"It's definitely one of my goals," Renne said. "I was always in the gym watching Cory when he wrestled. He was one of my role models."
Renne also credits head coach Frank Rodgers and assistant Jim Berringer for helping him achieve success during his four seasons. Berringer was an outstanding wrestler at Hopatcong under coach Tom Vara, going 107-15 from 1996-00, while winning district titles in 1999 and '00, and a Region 1 title in '00. Berringer, who finished fourth in the region as a freshman, was a two-time state placewinner -- 7th/8th at 130 in '99 and sixth at 140 pounds in '00.
"They're trying to make me the best I can be," Renne said. "[Berringer] was a great wrestler and he wrestled on the college level [at James Madison University], too. I listen to them every day."
Renne now preps for what will be a brutal 126-pound weight class at Region 1 -- which includes state placewinners Troy Stanich of Roxbury and Garrett O'Shea of Butler, along with Pope John freshman Robert Garcia, who handed Renne an 11-8 loss in the Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex Tournament semifinals. The loss to Garcia, who won a District 3 title, was Renne's only setback this season at 126. Valli beat Garcia, 6-5, for the HWS championship.
"I take districts first then regions," said Renne, who is appreciative of the first-round bye on Wednesday at Wallkill Valley. "It feels good to come out of here with first place."
1. Phillipsburg (P) 232.5; 2. Warren Hills (WH) 149.5; 3. Hackettstown (H) 127.5; 4. Mendham (M) 123.5; 5. West Morris (WM) 112; 6. Mount Olive (MO) 73; 7. North Warren (NW) 46; 8. Belvidere (B) 25.
Region 1 qualifiers by school
Phillipsburg 7+2+1=10; Warren Hills 2+2+4=8; Hackettstown 2+2+2=6; Mendham 1+2+3=6; West Morris 2+2+1=5; North Warren 0+2+1=3; Belvidere 0+0+2=2; Mount Olive 0+2+0=2.
106 -- 4-Fr. Cody Harrison (19-5), WH, md. 2-Fr. Dom DiGena (26-9), M, 11-2.
113 -- 1-Sr. Kyle Markus (30-6), P, md. 2-So. Kyle Wulff (23-9), WH, 11-3.
120 -- 1-Jr. Shane Metzler (32-0), WM, d. 2-Sr. Tom Kosar (15-10), P, 7-4.
126 -- 1-Sr. Joe Renne (29-5), H, d. 2-Jr. Matt Valli (32-1), WH, 9-6.
132 -- 1-Sr. Brandon Paetzell (9-3), P, tf. 2-So. Alex Carida (28-6), H, 18-3, 6:00.
138 -- 1-Jr. Kade Loughney (25-8), WM, d. 2-Sr. Tyler Agans (17-17), P, 7-3.
145 -- 2-So. Brian Meyer (29-8), P, d. 1-Sr. Anthony Carida (28-8), H, 3-1.
152 -- 2-Sr. DJ Wissing (23-4), P, p. 1-Sr. Anthony Duardo (30-2), NW, 4:43.
160 -- 1-Jr. Troy Navarino (27-7), M, d. 2-Sr. Caleb Isemann (28-6), WM, 4-3.
170 -- 1-So. Jarod Ostir (13-8), WH, p. 6-Sr. Shane Spitzer (10-12), MO, :37.
182 -- 1-Jr. Kyle Connelly (29-6), H, d. 3-Jr. Brent Bartzak (14-12), M, 3-1.
195 -- 1-Jr. Drew Horun (27-5), P, d. 3-Sr. Alex Leontaris (19-10), NW, 5-3.
220 -- 1-Jr. Robert Melise (34-2), P, p. 2-Sr. Daniel Colabella (23-8), MO, :54.
285 -- 1-Sr. Kyle Nothnagel (33-4), P, p. 2-Sr. Alex Kaltenhauser (20-13), WM, :56.
Outstanding Wrestler Award -- Joe Renne, Hackettstown.
Coach of the Year -- Dave Post, Phillipsburg.
106 -- 1-Fr. Quinn Melofchik (30-4), B, d. 3-So. Michael Caso (23-9), WM, 7-4.
113 -- 3-Fr. Peter Tringali (18-14), M, d. 5-Jr. Steven Nicotra (8-9), H, 4-3.
120 -- 5-Jr. Thomas Masucci (18-13), M, md. 6-Jr. Justin Bennett (20-16), H, 14-4.
126 -- 3-Jr. Nick Cassidy (22-10), B, md. 4-Jr. Dylan Hanlon (14-15), MO, 13-2.
132 -- 3-Jr. Shannon Grogan (17-12), NW, d. 4-Jr. Shane Murphy (26-9), MO, 6-5.
138 -- 3-Jr. Zach Nauta (22-7), WH, d. 4-Sr. Chris Schlegel (22-12), M, 4-2.
145 -- 3-So. Cameron Nauta (11-19), WH, p. 5-Jr. Christian Trimarchi (14-15), WM, 5:54.
152 -- 3-So. Marco Gaita (26-8), WM, d. 4-Jr. Dominic Hink (15-8), MO, 5-2.
160 -- 3-Sr. Anthony Roessner (24-11), WH, d. 5-Sr. Chris Ruiz (14-15), P, 6-1.
170 -- 4-Jr. Anthony Gonzalez (7-5), H, d. 2-Jr. Michael Servais (13-19), M, 4-3.
182 -- 2-Jr. Dan Fisher (20-16), P, d. 4-So. Ian Nelsen (12-14), MO, 5-4.
195 -- 2-Fr. Nick Galka (17-13), WH, d. 4-So. Giuseppe Canino (7-7), M, 6-4.
220 -- 5-Sr. Donte Rossi (8-18), M, d. 3-Jr. Brody Oberly (16-18), WH, 5-3.
285 -- 4-So. Joe Andes (14-15), H, d. 3-Jr. Taylan Zafis (16-16), WH, 3-2 UTB.