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Brandon's title run is under way

By TERRY JONES

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 3, 2002


BRANDON -- Only the Western Conference's best gathered Saturday for one last warmup before next week's district tournaments.

BRANDON -- Only the Western Conference's best gathered Saturday for one last warmup before next week's district tournaments.

Coaches from the 20 conference schools selected the top eight individuals in each weight class to compete for titles.

Brandon put the team title in the books after the semifinals, putting 11 into the finals and finishing with 299 points and seven champions.

The win was the 30th consecutive conference championship for the Eagles. During that time they've also won 359 consecutive dual matches.

"I was pleased that all 14 of my kids placed this year and we had seven champions," Brandon coach Russ Cozart said. "These past seven days have been good with two tournaments and the Bloomingdale dual. We have been ranked No. 1 in the state all year and now the time has come to prove it. The state run starts with districts Friday."

Bloomingdale placed second with 167 points and two champions. Durant followed with 143 points and two champions. Sickles (108), Chamberlain (105) and Riverview (103) each had one champion.

Brandon's individual champions included Cesar Grajales (103 pounds), Khalid Andwele (112), Alejandro Figueroa (119), Ryan Joyce (125), Rocky Cozart (140), Matt Juncal (171) and Rhashad Goff (215). Other individual winners included Riverview's Jordan Pirkl (135), Plant City's Cornelius Wiggins (130), Durant's Jean Cardano (145) and Derek Beaty (152), Bloomingdale's David Young (160) and Justin Diaz (189), and Armwood's Luis Dick (275). State contenders Pirkl and Dick finished the regular season with 31-0 and 27-0 records.

Brandon's Joyce, a sophomore, is also 31-0 heading into districts. In pinning Durant's Nick Sims on Saturday in five minutes, 50 seconds, he wrestled one of his best matches of the season.

"I was just focused and prepared for my opponent tonight," Joyce said. "I think I must meet him again in districts, regionals and maybe state. He's a good wrestler.

"The state title has eluded me now for the past three years and there are a few excellent wrestlers in my weight this year who present a challenge. I really want the state title this year."

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