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Brandon is on top again

Three individual champs enable Eagles to continue their reign.

By TERRY JONES
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 24, 2002


LAKELAND -- Brandon won its 13th title, turning back St. Thomas Aquinas 128-112 on Saturday in the Class 2A finals.

Brandon entered the day with an eight-point lead and stretched it to 124-107 after two wins.

Though St. Thomas won its first two individual matches, the Eagles put the tournament in the record book after the Raiders lost their third match.

Brandon's Matt Juncal ended St. Thomas' hopes, defeating previously unbeaten 171-pounder Oscar Rodriquez. The Eagles, sparked by three individual champs in continuing their title reign, were booed by the fans. "I am proud of my state championship team," Brandon coach Russ Cozart said.

"This was a close tournament and winners aren't always popular when winning a lot," he said. "But that is part of the sport. It just makes my guys tougher."

Juncal and Plant City's Cornelius Wiggins (130 in Class 3A) each won their second title. Sickles junior Jegan Gabbidon became the Gryphons' first champion, winning in Class 2A at 130. Freshmen Cesar Grajales (103) and Khalid Andwele (112) were the other Brandon title winners. Grajales scored a 12-2 major decision over Obe Blanc of Naples Lely.

"I had to figure out how to tie up in the first period, but once I put him down on his back with the fireman, I knew I was in control," Grajales said.

"Our team has worked so hard for this. I am happy for my whole team."

Andwele defeated Sickles junior Stan Liberatore with an 11-5 decision.

"He just didn't quit and even went harder than me in the third period," Andwele said. "Stan is a tough wrestler."

Sickles' Gabbidon posted a 12-2 major decision over Josh DaVilla of Haines City. "Once I put him on his back the first time, I realized I was in control," Gabbidon said.

"Next week, I start training to defend my title," he said. "My team only lost two seniors this year, so we will all work hard in the offseason to do better next year."

Other place-winners from Hillsborough County were Bloomingdale's Robert Hagin (second in Class 3A at 112), Gabe Bartolomei (sixth, 145) and Derek Saibi (sixth, 275); Brandon's Rocky Cozart (second at 140) and Alejandro Figueroa (119) and Tommy Hutchinson (135), both fifth; Plant City's John Simpkins (sixth at 103); and Temple Heights' David Craig (140), Chris Rexroat (130) and Sean Joyce (103), all third.

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