By TERRY JONES
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 7, 2003
BRANDON -- One of the first moves Tommy and Eddie Hutchinson learned at age 3 came with the aid of Big Bird of Sesame Street.
Brandon coach Russ Cozart taught his just-out-of-diapers wrestlers how to get off their backs with the Big Bird move.
Cozart put his kids on their backs with an opponent and shouted, "Do like Big Bird." They would tuck in their elbows, roll over onto their fronts, stretch out their arms with palms down and wave their hands like wings.
Now the Hutchinson twins have a full arsenal of offensive and defensive moves for Brandon opponents. They look so much alike, only family and close friends can tell them apart.
"Since I usually always follow Tommy in the lineup," Eddie said, "I have often wondered if our next opponent thinks the same guy is back for a second match."
The 16-year-old juniors are undefeated (9-0) starters, Eddie at 135 pounds, Tommy at 140. "I can't remember not wrestling," Tommy said. "We were either practicing or traveling to meets with the Brandon Wrestling Club, or our (grandmother, Pat Hendrickson) was taking us to Brandon matches. I have always dreamed of being part of the Eagles team and the Brandon streak."
Both have earned All-American status in age-group competition. Tommy qualified for the state high school tournament during his first two seasons on the varsity, placing sixth and fifth.
"Wrestling was just a lot of fun in my younger years," Eddie said. "It is still fun, but to be part of the Brandon varsity is very hard work. It seems everybody wants to beat a Brandon wrestler, and they work extra hard to accomplish that goal."
The family has been part of the Brandon wrestling since the early 1980s. Hendrickson has been an active parent supporter since 1983, when her son, Bobby, started wrestling. Bobby won a state title in 1985 and has been the Eagles junior varsity coach for more than a decade.
Cozart said he is especially pleased with the work ethic the twins have shown for many years.
"They both work very hard, and we count on them to help us win," Cozart said. "They are well-balanced. On their feet, they usually take and maintain the offensive. And on the mats, they are both very aggressive."
In the Graves Challenge on Friday and Saturday, the Brandon middleweights will play a key role. Countryside, one of the best teams in the state, probably will face the Eagles in the duals final and Countryside's strength is its middleweights.
ON THE LINE: Brandon will put its 29-year win streak on the line this weekend.
Because of the limited number of dual matches allowed and Western Conference rules mandating public schools wrestle each other, Brandon has been restricted in its nonconference schedule.
The conference was laid to rest last year, and in April, Cozart mailed invitations to 150 coaches in the state offering them an opportunity to challenge the streak. Only 14 responded.
The tournament guarantees teams four dual matches starting at 5 p.m. Friday at Brandon. Semifinals are scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday and the final at 7 p.m.
Scheduled to participate are: Alonso, Brandon, Countryside, Flagler Palm Coast, Hernando, Jefferson, Jesuit, Lakeland Lake Gibson, Stuart Martin County, Plant City, Riverview, Sickles, Venice and Wharton.