BRANDON — The host team won the Graves Invitational for the 11th time Saturday, and unlike in years past, Brandon had fewer than 10 finalists. And no one welcomed that steep level of competition more than Eagles coach Russ Cozart.
"That is just a testament to the strength of all the teams," said Cozart, who initiated the tournament in the 2002-03 season to honor his mentor and predecessor Jim Graves. "Camden was good, Collins Hill was good. … It was a great tournament. I knew it was going to be tough."
Of those Georgia powerhouses, only sixth-place Collins Hill previously had not been to the Graves event. Camden was runnerup with 246 points behind Brandon's 342.5. South Dade took third at 233 and the closest Tampa Bay area team was Tampa Prep at 13th.
Frankie Bruno, the first of five Brandon champions, got the finals started with a 3-2 decision over South Dade's Ozzy Lugo in the 106-pound weight class.
"It's tradition. I knew I had to go out there and start us off with a nice, solid win," said the sophomore following in the footsteps of brother Rossi, a five-time state champion who now wrestles at the University of Michigan.
Kyle Norstrem, whose brother Kevin also was a five-time state champion, kept the family tradition alive with a 7-1 win over Lake Highland Prep's Jake Brindley at 113.
The most thrilling match came at 126 with Brandon's Dylan Lucas, a three-time state champion, edging Ryan Milhof of Collins Hill 3-1 in overtime.
"The Lucas match is what wrestling can be all about," Cozart said after Lucas was named the event's top wrestler.
Brandon's Dontae McGee and Robbie Enman also won. McGee pinned John Weiss of Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas in 59 seconds of the 170 match and Enman defeated Sarasota's Tobias Baker 4-2 in a 220 bout.
Other finalists from Brandon were Devan Berrian (132), Troy Joyce (145) and Dakota Greene (160). No other wrestlers from the bay area reached the finals.