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Brandon wrestlers chasing 2004 team's glory

Brandon’s Tyler Liberatore, left, is a region champion at 130 pounds. The Eagles have wrestlers in all 14 weight classes for the state tourney.

DANIEL WALLACE | Times

Brandon’s Tyler Liberatore, left, is a region champion at 130 pounds. The Eagles have wrestlers in all 14 weight classes for the state tourney.

BRANDON — Not since 2004 has Brandon sent wrestlers in all 14 weight classes to the state tournament, though last year's dozen who came home with a school-record seven individual titles came close.

The 2004 squad listed six individual champions, and if one former member of that team proves prophetic, the current group of Eagles could set a new standard.

"All 14 to states, that's pretty special," Reshard Goff said while watching Brandon win eight individual titles at Saturday's Class 3A, Region 2 finals. "Hopefully, we can have all 14 as state champions, and you can quote me on that."

Brandon entered regionals with 14 district champions, but fell three wrestlers shy of the 2004 team that captured 11 region titles. Still, Goff, a two-time state champion who graduated in 2004, is impressed.

"From what I've seen they're tough," Goff said. "They seem like they've got it going on. They just need to focus; need that oomph. I like what I see."

So does Russ Cozart, who is in his 30th season as Brandon's coach and oversaw most of the team's national-record 459 dual-match win streak.

"They're bonding, just like the (2004) team," Cozart said. "They're really committed to the team and the season with their dedication."

The same could be said of the 2004 team, which boasted state champions Sean Joyce (112 pounds), Cesar Grajales (125), Rocky Cozart (160), David Craig (171), Goff (215) and Keith Simmons (285).

Also contributing to Brandon's 15th state championship and state-record 262 points in Class 2A in 2004 were Franklin Gomez (119), Ryan Joyce (135), Eddie Hutchinson (140), Tommy Hutchinson (145), Brandon Ray (130) and Marco Toledo (152). The latter two placed fifth while the first four finished third.

Goff smiled at the mention of that group, recalling how inseparable they were, in and out of school.

"It took desire, sacrifice, determination …" Goff said. "You were either practicing, lifting weights, in the wrestling room or sleeping. When we went out, we went out together. We were definitely a band of brothers."

This year's version of a "band of brothers" is led by region champions Victor Fugate (103), Rossi Bruno (119), Kevin Norstrem (125), Tyler Liberatore (130), Joe Cozart (152), Wally Figaro (160), Mike Ettore (189) and Henry Chirino (285).

Rounding out the 14 state qualifiers are Terry Dawson (112), Ty Jones (135), Travis Berridge (140), Clark Glass (145), Kyle Koziel (171) and Zack Baldwin (215).

In a final comparison of this year's team 2004's Cozart said, "We're more of a complete team. We've known that since the first day of practice."

fast facts

State wrestling

At the Lakeland Center

Admission: $8 per session; parking is $7

Friday: First round starts at 10 a.m.

Saturday: Wrestlebacks, 9 a.m.; semifinals, 11; championship finals, 6:35 p.m.

Brandon wrestlers chasing 2004 team's glory 02/17/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 17, 2010 7:09pm]
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