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Wrestlers learn moves in hotel conference room

BRANDON — It's been said that numbers don't tell the whole story in sports, but they are a pretty good gauge. There is excellence and then there is Brandon wrestling. And the Eagles' numbers — under coach Russ Cozart — are staggering.

Winners of 17 state team titles. Sixty-six individual state champions.

A run of 459 consecutive victories, the longest winning streak in any high school sport — ever. An ESPN documentary about the team.

It would be logical to assume Cozart and the program, which has brought the community so much pride, have some influence.

It wouldn't be out of the question to think they would hold summer camps — the building blocks for future Brandon wrestlers — in a palatial gymnasium tricked out with the most modern equipment.

Think again.

Where will Cozart's Wrestling Camp train when sessions resume this month and into August? Not in a high-tech setting. In fact, it won't even be at the Brandon High School gym.

Instead, it's the Best Western Hotel on Adamo Drive.

"It made sense, economically," Cozart said. "And it has worked out to be a good place for the camp members to train."

Cozart's camp, almost a decade old, has always been held during the summer at Brandon High School.

This year, with tightening school budgets, the cost to host the camp at the Eagles' gym wasn't feasible for Cozart. He didn't say how much it would have cost to use the school but said the move to a hotel conference room "made sense."

"Everybody is feeling the (economic) strain right now and this could have saved us a few pennies," he said. "And what that allowed us to do, by moving it off campus, was keep the coaching staff paid and the cost to the campers down."

Cozart and his staff converted a large conference room at the Best Western into a wrestling den, moving in maroon mats and providing the instruction that has been learned through years of being the most dominant high school program in the country.

Brandon's winning streak came to an end last year.

"The biggest change throughout the years has been twofold," Cozart said.

"First of all, the numbers (of camp participants) has increased. Second, and more importantly, has been the former Brandon wrestlers who I can call on to help lead the camp."

They include four-time junior national champion and son Rocky Cozart, who wrestles for Michigan State. The list of camp instructors is as impressive as it is long: Cesar Grajales, two-time junior national champion; Franklin Gomez, a three-time junior national champion; and Josh Lambrecht, a three-time All-American at Oklahoma State).

"Really, what I have to choose from now is a stable of great wrestlers who can also teach what they know," Russ Cozart said.

For Rocky Cozart, teaching the sport he loves is as natural as actually wrestling.

"Even when I was in high school, I would help others while we were going at it. It's been fun working at the camp with these young kids," he said.

While the casual observer may find a hotel a "weird" place to hold a wrestling camp, it's not all that uncommon a venue, Rocky Cozart said.

"I've been to camps before at places like this," he said. "I mean, I wrestled at a camp one time where we had the mats outside in a parking lot."

The Best Western also hosts the campers from other states. A July session included wrestlers from Virginia and Texas.

And Russ Cozart doesn't just train those who will never face a Brandon opponent. The camp roster includes wrestlers from Tampa Prep, Newsome, Durant, Hillsborough and Robinson.

"It's not just Brandon wrestling when you're here," he said. "It's bigger than that. It's about furthering the sport and teaching."

Even if that means doing so in a converted conference room.



Wrestling Camp

When: July 28 to Aug. 1 and Aug. 4-8

Who: Campers range from 8 to 19. Cozart said he will consider children younger than 8 years old, but they must have some sort of team sports background.

More info: brandoneagles

Wrestlers learn moves in hotel conference room 07/17/08 [Last modified: Monday, November 1, 2010 4:10pm]
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