BRANDON — As the visiting teams boarded their buses, either to make a short drive home or start the first leg of a long commute, Brandon wrestling coach Russ Cozart looked around his gymnasium after another successful meet.
Some of the 16 visitors had come from as far away as Alabama and Utah, but the Graves Invitational title remained in Brandon's house Saturday. The Eagles outpointed next-best Lake Gibson 712-531 as eight of 11 Brandon wrestlers claimed victory in the finals.
"You have teams from Utah (Uintah) and Alabama (Vestavia Hills) and two great Miami teams (South Dade, Columbus), and you had a lot of other teams that were really good," Brandon coach Russ Cozart said. "And we were looking for those individuals to come out and make their way to the finals."
Brandon's eight champions were: Rossi Bruno (121 pounds), Kevin Norstrem (127), Tyler Libertore (132), Clark Glass (147), Joe Cozart (152), Kyle Koziel (173), Zach Baldwin (217) and Henry Chirino (287).
"The competition we get down here is really good," said Vestavia Hills coach Steve Gaydosh said, whose team finished in fourth place behind third-place Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas. "I just really enjoy competing with all these teams, and we come down here so we can compete against the best guys. I really enjoy this because there are a lot of good teams in the South like (Brandon). But overall we came down here to get better."
Great competition took place all day as Lake Gibson, St. Thomas Aquinas, Vestavia Hills, Columbus and South Dade all gave the Eagles their best shot.
After Brandon, St. Thomas Aquinas sent four wrestlers to the finals, with all four claiming victories.
In one of the best finals matches, St. Thomas Aquinas' Joey Eterno and Brandon's Ty Jones battled until the final seconds with Eterno just edging Jones 6-5 in three periods.
"We needed the strong bouts today and we're out here trying to get that edge," Cozart said. " … We're going to go back into the workout room because we have some important dates ahead of us."