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By TERRY JONES
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 31, 2001
BRANDON -- In the past three seasons, the team with the best shot to end Brandon's winning streak has been Bloomingdale. This season, the Bulls might have their best team ever when they visit the Eagles at 7 p.m. today.
However, the Bulls have several factors working against them.
Brandon enters with the streak at 345 wins, the home-crowd advantage and one of its best teams ever. Then there is the psyche of the streak.
No Eagle wants to walk the halls and be known as part of the team that lost the streak. However unlikely an upset might be, Brandon is gearing up for the Bulls.
"I am very concerned about this match with Bloomingdale and have been all year," Eagles coach Russ Cozart said. "They have a good team, and we know they will be after our tails. Jan. 31 has been as much a spot on our calendar as it has been on theirs, and we are looking forward to it. It should provide excellent wrestling for all 28 kids on the mat."
For Bloomingdale to win, it must win three of the first five matches, three in the middle and upperweights, pull off upsets in any two classes and get at least two pins. Bloomingdale's strength is its lower weights, so it has a chance.
"We may have a chance to win some close matches in the lightweights," Bloomingdale coach Scot Tipton said. "Brandon is really strong in the middle, but we have some very strong upperweights. To win, we will have to wrestle our best throughout the match and avoid any pins. No matter what, our kids will be a better team walking out of the gym after wrestling a team like Brandon."
Except for five-time national champion freshman Ryan Joyce (121) and 22-0 sophomore Alejandro Figueroa (105), the first five weights have been a vulnerable part of Brandon's lineup. The Eagles have two freshmen (including Joyce) two sophomores and a junior there.
However young they are, they have plenty of experience.
All have more than 200 matches in USA Wrestling competition. Chris Collins (132) is 21-1 with two tournament titles, and all five, including Tommy Hutchinson (114) and Brian Barsoumian (127) are capable of challenging Bloomingdale's strength.
If the Bulls take an early lead, state contenders Brian Bergman (137), David Emch (142), Paul McCain (147) and Matt Juncal (162) must win for Brandon. Mike Manza is another tough Eagle middleweight, but he dislocated his shoulder at the Ippolito Tournament and probably will not wrestle. If he does not wrestle, Cozart would have to call up a junior varsity wrestler. Brandon's Nick Ferrario (189) lost 2-1 to Bloomingdale's Joe Dinzeo at the Ippolito but could be a factor even if beaten again. A win could clinch a Brandon victory, but a close loss could rob the Bulls of a pin and three extra points.
Senior upperweights Jonathan Wiley (217) and Joe Papp (277) are likely to close out the match in favor of Brandon, but they will be challenged by Mike Lugo (217) and Derek Saibi (277).
HOMECOMING CEREMONY: All Eagles who wrestled during the streak will be recognized tonight. A hospitality room at the east end of the gym will open at 6 p.m.
MUST WINS FOR THE BULLS
105 -- Robert Hagin; 114 -- Nick Miles; 127 -- David Mason; 154 -- Chris Curry; 191 -- Joe Dinzeo or Mike Lugo; 217 -- Lugo or Dinzeo.