Grandfathers, fathers, uncles, brothers and sons. Family ties have kept Brandon's winning streak alive.
By TERRY JONES
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 25, 2002
BRANDON -- Cesar Grajales Sr. sat quietly with his chin in his hand, watching his son in the Eagles nest. It was Nov. 29 and Cesar Grajales Jr. was wearing the same uniform the elder Grajales wore when he won a state title nearly 20 years ago.
Grajales Sr., normally a vocal supporter of Brandon wrestling from the stands, seemed to want to quietly savor this.
"It seemed like I had waited so long for this moment and I was just in awe," Grajales said, misty-eyed. "I was part of the first state championship team coached by Russ Cozart (in 1982) and I have waited so long to see my son in a Brandon uniform helping save the streak. I coached him for more than 1,000 matches, but now he belongs to my coach in the maroon and white."
The Grajales family built a home about four blocks from Brandon and moved from Pinellas County to be in the school's district. Their sons have been part of the Brandon wrestling club since age 4.
"All my life I have wanted to be a Brandon wrestler and part of the streak like my dad," Cesar said. "I started competing at age 5 and now I have five national championships. I never felt like a freshman on the team. It seems like I have always been an Eagle."
They are part of a family tradition. A tradition that has resulted in 358 consecutive wins during 29 years. Fathers, sons, brothers, uncles and buddies have worked to maintain the streak. And there's no end in sight for this young team.
Grajales is a freshman at 103 pounds, as are Rocky Cozart (the coach's son) at 152 and Khalid Andwele at 112. Jarrod Thompson (145), Tommy and Eddie Hutchinson (135 and 140) and Ryan Joyce (125) are sophomores. Matt Juncal is a junior at 171.
Cozart and Grajales are ranked first nationally in their weights by U.S. Wrestling magazine. As a team, the Eagles are ranked No. 1 in Florida and 20th in the nation.
Thompson earned his starting spot this year, but wrestled some varsity last season. His grandfather helped coach the first year of the streak and was the announcer for all home matches until his death a few years ago.
The Hutchinson twins are nephews to junior varsity coach and former Brandon state champion Bobby Hendrickson.
"The streak has been part of the regular conversation of my family since I remember," Tommy said. "Eddie and I have been with the club team since age 4 or 5 and we just always knew we would wrestle for Brandon. I will do everything I can to keep the streak going. What a terrible thing to be on the team that ever loses a dual match."
Joyce is 23-0 this season. His father, Mike, helps coach the club team and has also coached at Jesuit, Temple Heights and Armwood.
"I am a Brandon wrestling parent and delighted," Mike Joyce said.
"I pretty much knew I would always be a Brandon wrestler," Ryan said. "I have been wrestling a long time, but I couldn't wait to see what it was like to be an Eagle wrestler. I will have a brother here in two years. I will do everything I can to keep the streak. If not for my team, for my family and coach Cozart."
Andwele and Juncal, both 23-0, have at least two national championships and are state contenders.
Rocky Cozart is a link to the total tradition. He started crawling around the mats in the gym while in diapers and now holds more than half a dozen national championships. He is 23-0.
"My dad never forced me to wrestle," he said. "I played soccer and was into swimming, but somewhere along the way I made wrestling my only sport. Dad is hard on me in practice, but no more so than his other wrestlers. I love my dad and I trust my coach. I think everyone on the team feels the same way."
Russ Cozart is thrilled about coaching his son. .
"If I had shied away from coaching my son, I would have missed one of the most fantastic opportunities of life," Cozart said. "After 26 years of coaching, I am learning by coaching Rocky. This experience is making me a better father and coach."