Six state champions highlight Brandon's dominance this season.
By TERRY JONES
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 14, 2003
BRANDON -- Florida has never experienced anything like this: Six state wrestling champions from the same school.
To get some perspective, consider that a good season used to mean one or two champions from all Hillsborough County schools.
Six from one? Preposterous.
The school, of course, shouldn't be a surprise. It's Brandon, owner of the longest dual-match winning streak in the history of high school sports.
After this season, one in which the Eagles invited the state's top teams to the Challenge the Streak Tournament, the record stands at 375-0, a string that spans 30 years.
And yet in those three decades, Brandon has never had a team dominate like this one.
This team won the school's 29th consecutive district title, set a record for points at a state tournament (246.5), beat teams by an average score of 72-3, had seven wrestlers with more than 40 victories and won its third consecutive state crown, which gave it a Florida-record 14.
But maybe most remarkable were the six state champs: sophomore Cesar Grajales (119 pounds); junior Ryan Joyce (130); freshman David Craig (145); sophomore Rocky Cozart (152); senior Matt Juncal (189) and junior Rashard Goff (215).
"They were young but very skilled and seasoned in some tough freestyle national tournaments," Brandon coach Russ Cozart said. "My job was to help them pull together as a team and wrestle to their potential.
"It turns out they were already self-motivated and determined to be different and set some records. When it was over, they turned out to be the best team in Florida wrestling history."
Which meant Brandon was tough top to bottom. No weaknesses anywhere.
Just behind the six champions were three more Eagles -- senior Alejandro Figueroa (103) and juniors Tommy Hutchinson (140) and Keith Simmons (275) -- who placed as state runners-up.
Junior Eddie Hutchinson (135) placed third, and junior Jarod Thompson (160) won two matches at the state tournament to add a few more points.
"Our guys came into the state tournament to break some records," Juncal said. "We didn't need any outside motivation.
"We were all determined and we accomplished what we set out to do. I am so proud to be a part of this very special team."
And here's the kicker: All but Juncal and Figueroa return for next season.