Wrestling team hopes to get approval to compete in prestigious tournament in Akron in December.
By SCOTT PURKS
Published June 11, 2003
BRANDON - It's not a done deal, but it appears Brandon's wrestling juggernaut will be competing in one of the country's best, if not the best, tournaments Dec. 12 and 13 in Akron, Ohio.
"We still have a huge hurdle to clear with the (Florida High School Activities Association), which is tough on approving such out-of-state things," Brandon coach Russ Cozart said. "But if they approve it, it will be a great, great thing to compete in.
"This tournament (the Walsh Jesuit Ironman) is year in and year out the most competitive in the country. It would be the toughest tournament Brandon has ever wrestled in. I mean we just don't see competition this tough around here. We can't find it in Florida."
The individual format event, however, would not put the Eagles' 30-year-old, national-record 375 dual-match winning streak on the line.
"What it will do is put Brandon out there on the national stage," Cozart said. "I think everybody will want a shot at Brandon, the team with the streak. It might be like 29 teams against Brandon.
"We might be a little awed by it, but we won't be scared. This is not a normal team we have here. They are champions and they like to compete."
Brandon would be the only team from Florida and one of four from the South competing among the 30 teams, which includes Blair Academy from New Jersey, often considered the best team in the country.
The good news for Cozart is that he is bringing what could be the Eagles' strongest team, which is saying something considering "The Streak" and the fact Brandon has won 14 state wrestling titles.
Last season Brandon won its third consecutive state title with a record 246.5 points and had six state champions, five of whom return for next season along with two that finished as state runners-up.
The trip, which would be privately financed (Cozart estimated $7,000 would have to be raised), has received special permission by the Hillsborough County school board. School board policy normally doesn't permit missing more than half a school day for events not sanctioned by the Florida High School Activities Association.
"I want to emphasize, however, that the final hurdle has not been cleared, and I've learned in the past that getting FHSAA approval can be very difficult," said Cozart, who has competed in one event outside the state (in 1992). "I hope we do get approved, though, because we really, really would love to wrestle in this tournament.
"I think it would be the biggest story in prep wrestling circles for the whole country next year. I think everyone would want to see what this team from Florida, this team with the streak, is made of."
The FHSAA's ruling on the request to travel should be made within the next week.