Brandon better than ever
State records fall as the Eagles win their 15th wrestling title.
By SCOTT PURKS, Times Staff Writer
Published February 29, 2004
LAKELAND - For three long days, one Brandon arm after another was raised victorious in the middle of the Lakeland Center as the school's name boomed again and again over the public address system.
Brandon, Brandon, Brandon, Bran ...
A maroon and white wrestling machine - opponents might say nightmare - that Florida may never see the likes of again.
Sure, many know of the school's 30-year-old, national-record, 395 dual-match winning streak, but this year ... this year deserves an exclamation point compared to everything that preceded it.
On Saturday's final day of the state wrestling championships, Class 2A Brandon did not lose in 12 consolation or state final matches, and when it was over the Eagles added to the state record books.
Total points for a team champion: 261, beating runnerup Countryside by 103.5 and breaking the previous record of 246.5, set last season by Brandon. The next closest total for a state champion was Clay, which finished Saturday with 223 to take the Class A state title.
Tied the state record of six individual champions from one team (set last season by Brandon): Sean Joyce at 112 pounds, Cesar Grajales (125), Rocky Cozart (160), David Craig (171), Rashard Goff (215) and Keith Simmons (heavyweight). Grajales, Craig, Cozart and Goff were repeat winners.
Won its 15th state team title. Miami Southridge and South Dade are next with seven each.
Won its fourth consecutive title. Brandon won three in a row from 1991-93. Flagler Palm Coast won three straight from 1993-95, and Homestead South Dade has turned the trick twice, from 1995-97 and 1999-01. After qualifying all 14 of its wrestlers for the tournament, the Eagles had 12 place in the top six.
And though records aren't kept for such things, Brandon probably gathered more respect and critics this season than ever.
Critics grew after the Florida High School Athletic Association investigated recruiting allegations over transfers Franklin Gomez and Marco Toledo, who moved over the summer from Puerto Rico and Miami respectively.
The investigation is expected to conclude within a few weeks, and should violations be found, the points Gomez and Toledo scored could be taken away. Gomez and Toledo scored a total of 28 at the state tournament, which wouldn't affect the team title but could affect the points record. The dual-match record also is not in jeopardy.
Saturday, nothing could dampen the spirit of the Eagles, who hugged and jumped in unison on the mats after Simmons won the final match 4-3.
Watching the celebration, was beaming Brandon coach Russ Cozart.
"Undoubtedly this is the best team I've ever had, and it has to be the best team this state has ever seen," Cozart said. "Some polls have us ranked as the best public school team in the nation, and everything this team has done backs that up."
The Eagles earned national praise in December after finishing second in Ohio's Ironman tournament, generally considered the nation's top prep wrestling event.
Next season, anything even close will be tough to duplicate, as seven starting Eagles graduate.
"Who knows what the future will hold?" Cozart said. "All I know is that right now things couldn't be better."
[Last modified February 29, 2004, 01:15:11]
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