BRANDON — Winning the annual Tony Ippolito Memorial Tournament is a way for Brandon to honor the team’s and Hillsborough County’s first-ever state wrestling champion. Yet none of the Eagles’ 28 Ippolito titles in 30 years has been more significant than Saturday’s victory.
Aside from the family of the late Brandon wrestler, who died of cancer in 1990, members of the 1974 team and former coach Jim Graves were on hand to celebrate their 40th anniversary. That first-year team began the nation’s longest high school sports winning streak of 459 consecutive dual meets from 1974 to 2008.
“It all started with Jim Graves; I just jumped on the train,” said Eagles coach Russ Cozart, who took over for his predecessor in 1980. “Nine of his 13 wrestlers from the 1974 team are here tonight to honor him. Jim Graves is a wrestling legend.”
Brandon had nine finalists in Saturday’s tourney and won seven of those matches to score 302.5 points. North Port was second (187) and Springstead (167.5) third. Also in the top 10 were Pasco and Tampa Prep, who tied for eighth witih 96 points.
Frankie Bruno (106 pounds), Kyle Norstrem (113), James Flint (126), Dylan Lucas (132), Dakota Greene (160), Dontae’ McGee (170) and Robert Enmon (220) won individual titles for Brandon.
Flint, who edged Tampa Prep’s Donoven Hough 4-3, and Robinson’s Luis Peguero, a 4-2 winner over Harmony’s Sawyer Root in the first overtime of the 182 final, were named the meet’s outstanding wrestlers. Flint is a three-time state champion while Peguero is a defending state champion who improved to 34-0.
The lone pin in the finals came in the 285-pound class when Pasco’s Andrew Ivie pinned Chamberlain’s Robert Mosley in 28 seconds.
Of Springstead’s five finalists, two came away with titles. Mikey McDonald defeated Brandon’s Geoff Doback 5-2 at 120 and defending state champion Jordan Rivera earned a narrow 3-2 decision against Brandon’s Troy Joyce at 145.
Kushner Duals: Durant went 9-1, falling only to host and champion Palm Harbor U., to take runnerup honors at the Logan Kushner Duals. Cougars 120-pounder Austin Haley went 10-0, beating Fivay’s ninth-ranked Cole Manion 4-2. Haley had exams Saturday morning and was two hours late, then wrestled Manion right away. “He (Manion) is so compact, he can shoot under you,” Haley said. “I did a lot of work from neutral (position).” Austin’s twin brother, Reagan (132), went 9-1, and 170-pounder Levi Williams went 10-0.
Times correspondent Andy Warrener contributed to this report.