Week of joy and sorrow

Brandon coach's induction into the California chapter of the National Hall of Fame is followed by the death of his father.

By TERRY JONES Times correspondent
Published May 31, 2007

BRANDON - Brandon wrestling coach Russ Cozart returned home May 20 after making two trips to California and back in a week.

On the first trip Cozart was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, California chapter. He returned to California, his home state - one day after returning to Brandon - to attend his father's funeral.

Charles Cozart, 78, died from colon cancer two months after being diagnosed.

"Even at 78, my dad was active and showed no signs of health problems until this year, " Cozart said. "A couple of months ago he started feeling bad and losing weight. Since he lived alone, we put him into a home to get good care, but he was still active."

Russ Cozart was inducted into the Florida chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame more than five years ago because of his contribution to the sport here.

As a wrestler at Upton High in California, Cozart won individual state and national championships, then took All-America honors at the University of Alabama before returning to coach two years at Upton.

After moving from California to Tampa 29 years ago, Cozart coached at Chamberlain for a year, then took the reins of the Brandon wrestling program after Jim Graves stepped down.

That is when his state, national and international credits began to accumulate. He extended the Brandon "streak" from 84 to 447 consecutive dual-match wins, a world record.

In 27 years as Eagles coach, he has guided more than 70 individual state champions and 17 team state championships.

"You never know when someone close will die, " Cozart said. "My mom died when I was 15 and Dad had made peace with his maker. It still hurts though."