Rossi Bruno may have been sick with the flu last weekend and lost a few pounds, not to mention a shot at a region title, but being a no-show at this week’s state tournament is out of the question for the Brandon junior.
Forget the prospect of one day joining an elite list of four four-time state champions from a program steeped in a winning tradition, being sidelined while his teammates competed at the Lakeland Center would be more painful than any illness.
That’s why coach Russ Cozart kept him out of Monday’s practice, even though the 130-pounder went ahead and wrestled in last weekend’s Class 3A, Region 2 championships.
“I just didn’t want him to push himself too early,” Cozart said of Bruno, who returned to practice Tuesday. “He’ll be there. We’re going to have him ready.”
At regionals, Bruno lost to eventual champion Aaron Hartman of Palm Harbor University before bouncing back with an 8-1 victory over Chamberlain’s Roger Phillips in the consolation finals for a third-place finish.
“I thought he handled it very well for being very sick,” Cozart said of Bruno’s effort to qualify for states by placing among the top four in his weight class.
Bruno will be joined at the state meet by what Cozart labels one of his best teams ever. That’s saying a lot for a program that once had 459 dual-match victories and owns 19 state championships, including 10 in a row.
“It’s a real good squad, one of my best,” Cozart said. “They’re very enthusiastic about wrestling. They love the sport. They love training for it.”
They also seem to enjoy the winning that goes along with those traits. As usual, Brandon enters the state tournament having won the Graves and Ippolito invitationals, which preceded team victories in the Hillsborough County, district and region tournaments.
Along the way, Brandon’s lineup drew comparisons to top teams from its past. The Eagles won all 14 weight classes in the district tournament, something that happened only in 2004 and last year. They also earned their 39th county, 38th district and 30th region crowns.
Individually, eight Brandon wrestlers have won county, district and region titles this season: James Flint (112), Victor Fugate (119), Kevin Norstrem (125), Tyler Liberatore (135), Clark Glass (152), Wallly Figaro (160), Kyle Koziel (171) and Mike Ettore (189).
As for those with a shot at joining an elite foursome of four-time winners, Cozart lists Bruno, Glass, Liberatore and Norstrem as potential candidates. They would join the Grajoles brothers, Anthony and Eric, along with David Craig and Joe Cozart, the latter of whom accomplished that feat last season.
“I’m sure they’re motivated every day,” the coach said.
Class 3A-A wrestling at the Lakeland Center
Admission: $8 per session; parking is $7
Friday: Weigh-ins, 8 a.m.; first round, 10 a.m.; followed by wrestlebacks, second round and more wrestlebacks.
Saturday: Weigh-ins, 7:30 a.m.; wrestlebacks (third round), 9 a.m.; followed by semifinals, wrestlebacks (fourth round), fifth- and sixth-place finals and third- and fourth-place finals; introduction of finalists, 4:40 p.m.; Russ Mauger Award, 4:50 p.m.; championship finals, 5 p.m.
Tampa Bay area state qualifiers
3A: 103 – Devan Berrian, Brandon; Sha’Von Flowers, Chamberlain; 112 – James Flint, Brandon; Patrick Brown, East Lake; 119 – Ryan Hartman, Countryside; Victor Fugate, Brandon; 125 – Lucas Fitzer, Alonso; Kevin Norstrem, Brandon; Audrick Barr, Chamberlain; 130 – Rossi Bruno, Brandon; Aaron Hartman, Palm Harbor University; Roger Phillips, Chamberlain; 135 – Skip Reagor, Bloomingdale; Tyler Liberatore, Brandon; 140 – Brice Jones, Brandon; 145 – Travis Berridge, Brandon; Dylan Gouletas, East Lake; 152 – Clark Glass, Brandon, 160 – Trey Lawson, Freedom; Wally Figaro, Brandon; Charles McDaniel, Countryside; 171 – Nick Oregera, Palm Harbor University; Kyle Koziel, Brandon; Brandon Dorney, Chamberlain; 189 – Andrew Ford, Freedom; Mike Ettore, Brandon; Kenny Rach, Bloomingdale; 215 – Kevin Kitchen, Countryside; Jared Stippert, Palm Harbor University; Lorenzo Martinez, Brandon; 285 – Ryan Johnson, Countryside; Joe Dudley, Brandon
2A: 103 – Jacob Wasserman, King; Richie Bliss, Springstead; 112 – John Ortiz, Sunlake; Jordan Rivera, Springtead; William Joyce, Plant City; 119 – Robert Monseguer, Central; Chase Haley, Durant; 125 – Sean Redman, Springstead; Dana Harrington, Dixie Hollins; 130 – Dylan Koesling, Wiregrass Ranch; Virgil Toms, Springstead; Matt Benton, Plant City; 135 – James Bueno, Dixie Hollins; Nick Soto, Springstead; Clarence Longley, Largo; 140 – Cody McKinnon, Largo; Cody Ross, Springstead; Austin Prince, Dunedin; 145 – Joshua Jefferies, Largo; Nissan Anderson, East Bay; 152 – Christopher Johnson, Largo; Tyler Detrieux, Armwood; Shawn Landgraff, Springstead; 160 – Jonathan Gile, Osceola; Kyle Goodnow, Dunedin; Keith Watford, Durant; Thomas Gupton, Springstead; 171 – Mike Hogan, Dunedin; Gilbert Stokes, Durant; 189 – Andrew Herr, River Ridge; David Vogeney, Largo; 215 – Ben Richards, Hillsborough; Robert Luth, Dunedin; Jared Willett, Osceola; 285 – John Dreggors, Springstead
A: 103 – Austin Hanold, Steinbrenner; Dylan Lucas, Tampa Bay Christian; Abe Fernandez, Strawberry Crest; Ernst Antoine, Lennard; Anthony Agazam, Gulf; 112 – Tyler Forand, Nature Coast; Wyatt Roop, Jesuit; Chase Singletary, Tampa Bay Christian; Josman Gamez, Pasco; Wilfredo Sierra, Robinson; 119 – Damen Patisaul, Strawberry Crest; Marty Mine, Clearwater Central Catholic; 125 – Christian Dominguez, Jesuit; Jordan Christopher, Clearwater Central Catholic; Brian Travis, Northside Christian; 130 – Eric Franklin, Spoto; Calvin Rabney, Lennard; Anthony Ayers, Gulf; Dryden Dennis, Northside Christian; Dakota Greene, Tampa Bay Christian; 135 – Carter Bolesta, Nature Coast; Dalton Dennis, Northside Christian; Eric Bach, Tampa Prep; James Aikman, Spoto; 140 – Dontae McGee, Admiral Farragut; Josh Fulford, Steinbrenner; Jared Young, Hernando; Anthony Melillo, Northside Christian; 145 – Cliff Barker, Northside Christian; Kaylab Phillips, Lennard; 152 – Austin Hayes, Gulf; Anthony Cimino, Jesuit; Nick Popolillo, Wesley Chapel; Zane May, Northside Christian; 160 – Jason Piquette, Northside Christian; Kyle Walker, Jesuit; Richard O’Connor, Gulf; Chris Padilla, Robinson; 171 – Zack Pritz, Hernando; Ladarius Jackson, Gulf; Kenny Price, Lakewood; Tyler Reed, Steinbrenner; 189 – Justin Lewandowski, Clearwater Central Catholic; Ryon Keith, Steinbrenner; Kris O’Brien, Strawberry Crest; 215 – Blaine Ward, Admiral Farragut; Michael Hahn, Fivay; 285 – Greg Tomlin, Berkeley Prep; Jeff Kruse, Gulf