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Wrestling coach mum on recruiting allegations

A version of this story appeared in the Times' Sports section.

BRANDON _ The Florida High School Athletic Association this week began investigation into possible recruiting violations in Brandon's wrestling program. Brandon coach Russ Cozart kept it close to the vest.

"We didn't do anything wrong," Cozart said. "And that's all I'm saying until the investigation has run its course."

The investigation began Monday after Countryside athletic coordinator Steve Blumer sent a letter to the FHSAA saying Franklin Gomez and Marco Toledo were recruited by the Eagles.

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 says, Gomez of Puerto Rico and Toledo of Miami transferred to Brandon.

Brandon has until Wednesday to reply to the FHSAA inquiry, and Brandon athletic director Sonny Hester said he is well into his own investigation, which includes interviews and written statements from wrestlers, coaches and the wrestlers' parents and guardians.

Hester said he and Brandon have always followed the letter of the FHSAA bylaws.

In November, Gomez, who wrestled for Puerto Rico's national team in 2003, received permission from an FHSAA appeals board to play sports at Brandon on a hardship case.

Toledo followed by receiving his permission to play in January.

Hester said Gomez came to live with Mike Joyce, father of Brandon state champion wrestlers Sean and Ryan Joyce, through contacts of a mutual friend who lived in Brandon.

Hester said Toledo came to live with Cesar Grajales, father of Brandon two-time state champion Cesar Grajales, through friendships between relatives that go back to Colombia, South America.

"When all this comes out (at the end of the investigation) everything will be fine," said Cesar Grajales, who spoke for Toledo as his legal guardian. "We passed everything through the appeal committee, and they heard everything. They wouldn't have allowed this if it wasn't legit."

Mike Joyce could not be reached for comment.

Whatever the outcome of the investigation, Brandon's national-record, 30-year-old streak of 380-consecutive dual-match victories 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.

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