State wrestling: Brandon five chase perfect seasons



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Thu. February 13, 2014 | Steve Lee

State wrestling: Brandon five chase perfect seasons

BRANDON — Brandon's Dylan Lucas had revenge on his mind at the Graves Invitational wrestling meet earlier this season.

Lucas was set to face Georgia's Ryan Millhof, who had beaten him in the preseason.

Lucas' 3-1 overtime victory kept his unbeaten regular season intact, not to mention beating the nation's top-ranked 132-pounder gave him a confidence boost.

"It was nice going out there and getting revenge," said Lucas, one of five Brandon wrestlers who head into this weekend's Class 2A state meet without a loss.

Lucas (63-0) takes pride in his perfect record. A three-time state champion, including one as an eighth-grader at Tampa Bay Christian, he aims to go undefeated for the second time in his career and for the first time since he was a freshman.

If he were to stay unbeaten and lose in the final, Lucas said: "I'd be crushed. Hopefully, that won't happen."

Joining Lucas as district and region champs, and looking to cap perfect seasons with state championships, are Frank Bruno, 47-0 at 106 pounds; Kyle Norstrem, 66-0 at 113; James Flint, 29-0 at 126; and Dontae McGee, 54-0 at 170.

"The guys who are undefeated have put together a pretty good season," said coach Russ Cozart, noting that his wrestlers being brash about their records is something he is not overly concerned with. "Confidence is part of the sport, but being cocky isn't."

Inner drive, hard work and pride are among the traits of the undefeated wrestlers, as well as teammates who are part of one of the most successful high school programs in the nation. Brandon set the national record of 459 consecutive dual-meet victories and has won 24 state titles, including the last 13 in a row.

"You've got to wrestle hard every match, because you never know who you're going to draw," Lucas said. "You want to keep the school streak with the state titles going, but in the end you've got to do what's best for you."

Added McGee: "There's not really pressure from anyone except yourself. You're pushing yourself more than anyone on the team."

For Bruno and Norstrem, who follow in the footsteps of older brothers (Rossi Bruno and Kevin Norstrem) who each won five state titles, there is the matter of continued family success on the mat.

"I learned from watching my brother to always keep your head in the match," Frank Bruno said. "It's some big shoes to fill, but I'm ready and working very hard to fill those shoes."

Kyle Norstrem, a two-time state champion, has a shot at doing something his brother never did: going undefeated.

"I'm trying to beat all his records," the younger Norstrem said.

Having individual success in a team sport is something most Brandon wrestlers learn at a young age while coming up through Cozart's club program. They also realize that though they may be favored to win a match, a dark horse could emerge to derail them.

"A lot of my guys are well-seasoned and they've got a pretty good grasp of the sport," Cozart said. "They're going to take the smartest road to victory."

Flint, a three-time state champion who was a runnerup last season, is on the path for another state title. Coming in second as a junior, he said, has motivated him throughout his senior season.

"I think it helped me, because now I've got something to prove; that it didn't affect me," Flint said.

Unlike the others, McGee, a junior who placed fourth in last year's state meet, and Bruno, a sophomore who was a backup as a freshman, have yet to win it all.

"I want the state title," McGee said, "the undefeated part is just a bonus."

State meet
Where: The Lakeland Center
Admission: $9 per session; $8 for parking.
Friday: First round 10 a.m. with wrestlebacks and second round to follow.
Saturday: Wrestlebacks 9:30 a.m. with semifinals to follow; championship finals 5:30 p.m.

Teams in post


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