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Brandon wrestling is under investigation

The Brandon High wrestling team, one of the most prestigious sports programs in the nation, is under investigation by the Florida High School Athletic Association after being accused of recruiting two wrestlers.

The action was prompted by a letter sent from Countryside High athletic coordinator Steve Blumer, who said in the letter that the information was provided by Countryside wrestling coach Dave Frayer.

Frayer, a longtime critic of Brandon's 30-year-old, national-record, 380-dual match winning streak, said he was told Franklin Gomez and Marco Toledo were recruited by the Eagles. Specifically, the letter said Brandon coaches and wrestlers contacted Gomez and Toledo in July during a club tournament in Fargo, N.D.

Two weeks later, the letter asserts, Gomez of Puerto Rico and Toledo, from Miami, transferred to Brandon.

Neither wrestler could be reached for comment Monday.

Whatever the outcome of the investigation, Brandon's famous streak will not be in jeopardy, FHSAA associate commissioner Dan Boyd said.

If Brandon is found at fault, any points Gomez and Toledo scored in this year's matches will be forfeited. But the loss of their points would not be enough for Brandon to lose any dual matches.

Brandon has 10 days to reply to the FHSAA inquiry. Brandon coach Russ Cozart could not be reached for comment Monday, but athletic director Sonny Hester said he has begun looking into the situation.

"I'm getting statements from everyone who was at the tournament in Fargo and looking into every angle possible on this thing," Hester said. "(Monday) was the first I had heard about the tournament in Fargo, but before that we had everything in order in regards to these kids with the FHSAA."

Gomez, who wrestled on Puerto Rico's national team in 2003, received permission from an FHSAA appeals board to transfer to Brandon in November on a hardship case. Toledo also received permission on a hardship at the appeals board.

Before the appeals board ruled, the FHSAA had said Gomez and Toledo could not transfer because they were going to live with parents of other Brandon wrestlers.

"Both of these kids come from indigent families and the appeals board ruled that they could come to Brandon (and stay with families of other Brandon wrestlers) so they could have a chance at a better education and life," Hester said. "But I assure you that I will look into everything about this tournament in Fargo.

"I do know that (Cozart) and several wrestlers were at that Fargo tournament. But so were 3,000 other students. There were kids from all over the place at that tournament."

Hester said there seemed to be no problem with the situation until after the Jim Graves Challenge the Streak Tournament, where Countryside lost in the final to Brandon 48-13.

Frayer insisted Monday that he didn't initiate the letter to the FHSAA.

"I knew I would get screamed at and yelled at if my name was attached to all this stuff, especially by the Brandon people," Frayer said. "All I can say is I did not originate, start it or promote it. They can think what they want.

"I did not research it, but it was presented to me. If they've done what they're supposed to, then they'll have their butts covered.

"I've been doing a whole lot more in the last two hours to worry about (Brandon wrestling). I'm trying to keep my own house in order."

Frayer, 54, who decided to retire from coaching at the end of the season, has dealt with problems concerning his own program.

Earlier this month, Countryside officials contacted the FHSAA to let it know Frayer violated a rule by letting an academically ineligible junior varsity wrestler participate in a meet.

Frayer said he expects to be fined for the incident.

As for Brandon, the situation could be more sensitive because the school is in the first year of a two-year administrative probation. That violation stemmed from not seeking approval from the FHSAA for the athletic participation of five basketball players who lived outside the school's district.

"Should something come from this (wrestling investigation), the consequences could be harsher than they otherwise would be," Boyd said. "But who knows, Brandon could very well have everything in order. That's definitely a possibility.

"We'll just have to see."

_ Times staff writer Antonya English contributed to this report.

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